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Massachusetts law about state courts

A compilation of information about the Massachusetts and Federal Courts and their rules and procedures, by the Trial Court Law Libraries.

Table of Contents

Massachusetts state courts

Massachusetts court system organization chart

Massachusetts court system organization chart

Supreme Judicial Court: The Supreme Judicial Court is Massachusetts’ highest appellate court. The court consists of a Chief Justice and 6 Associate Justices. The 7 Justices hear appeals on a broad range of criminal and civil cases.

Appeals Court: The Appeals Court reviews decisions that the trial judges from the several Departments of the Trial Court have already made in many different kinds of cases. The Appeals Court consists of a chief justice and 24 associate justices.

Trial Court: Start here to find all other state courts. The 7 Trial Court departments are District Court, Boston Municipal Court, Housing Court, Juvenile Court, Land Court, Probate & Family Court, and Superior Court.

Specialty courts: Specialty courts are problem-solving court sessions that provide court-supervised probation and mandated treatment. Massachusetts has several types of specialty court sessions including Adult Drug Courts, Mental Health Court, Veteran’s Treatment Court, and Homeless Court.

Federal courts in Massachusetts

Court rules

Court rules are the rules that govern the practice and procedure of a particular court.

Massachusetts court rules

Federal court rules

Information about court cases

Massachusetts court opinions

SJC and Appeals Court docket information
Provides docket information on cases entered since January 1, 1992 in the SJC, and since January 1, 1988 in the Appeals Court

Trial Court docket information
Docket Information from Housing, Land, and Probate and Family Courts

Federal Court opinions

Selected reports

Court reports: Reports on a range of court management issues including:

  • Access to justice
  • Annual reports
  • Court management advisory board (CMAB)
  • Court management and procedure
  • Hiring and promotion
  • Diversity reports

Access to court records

Boston Globe Media Partners v. Chief Justice of the Trial Court, 483 Mass. 80 (2019)
Public access to records of show cause hearings

Comm. v. Fujita, 470 Mass. 484 (2015)
A list of jurors must be "retained in the court file of the case and be made available to the public in the same manner as other court records; further, this court concluded that only on a judicial finding of good cause, which may include a risk of harm to the jurors or to the integrity of their service, may such a list be withheld."

Massachusetts Trial Court record retention schedule, Administrative Office of the Trial Court
Outlines requirements for each court department

SJC Rule 1:24: Protection of personal identifying information in publicly accessible court documents
“This rule is intended to prevent the unnecessary inclusion of certain personal identifying information in publicly accessible documents filed with or issued by the Courts, in order to reduce the possibility of using such documents for identity theft, the unwarranted invasion of privacy, or other improper purposes.”

Trial Court Public Access to Court Records Committee
Find information about the Trial Court Public Access to Court Records Committee and Proposed Rule XIV Uniform Rules on Access to Court Records.

Trial Court Rule XIV: Uniform rules on public access to court records

Written information security program for non-public documents held by the Massachusetts courts (WISP)
"The WISP sets forth the standards applicable to the Supreme Judicial Court, the Appeals Court and all departments of the Trial Court (“Courts”) for collecting, storing, using, transmitting, and protecting electronic and physical records containing personal information."

About the courts and court procedure

About the Massachusetts court system
Learn how the Massachusetts Court System works and find court data, metrics, reports, policies, plans, and initiatives.

DOR guides for customers going to court, Mass. Department of Revenue, Child Support Enforcement
Details about child support hearings in Probate and Family Court in each of the different courts. "Before you go to court, it might be helpful for you to review the information package for the court you are visiting. The court packages contain useful information such as what to bring, what not to bring, what to expect, where to go when you arrive, etc."

Federal courts and the public, U.S. Courts.
"The work of the federal courts impacts the lives of the American public in many ways. This section discusses the most common ways people interact with the U.S. Courts."

Massachusetts Appeals Court help center
Includes Guide to Appeals, Entry of an Appeal, Direct Appellate Review, Further Appellate Review, Motion Practice, Single Justice Practice, Interlocutory Petitions, Motions to Stay Pursuant to RAP 6, Format for Briefs & Appendices, Oral Arguments, Moffett Filings, Impoundment Procedures, and Pilot Project - Docketing Statement

Massachusetts Court Reform Act of 1978. Chapter 478 of 1978

The Massachusetts court process
Learn about how court processes in the different court departments work. This page has information on the trial and appellate process.

Massachusetts Trial Court policy on juror use of personal communication devices, Administrative Office of the Trial Court

MUPC estate administration procedural guide, June 2016.

Representing yourself in a civil case
A resource of information if you are considering representing yourself in a civil case in a Massachusetts trial court.

Serving the self-represented litigant: a guide by and for Massachusetts court staff, June 2010
Includes both general information for all court staff, and specific advice for employees in each court department.

Supreme Judicial Court style manual, SJC Office of the Reporter of Decisions, 2019
The manual may be useful to those preparing appellate briefs

Selected print sources

History of the judiciary of Massachusetts,including the Plymouth and Massachusetts Colonies, the Province of the Massachusetts Bay, and the Commonwealth, by William T. Davis, Boston Book Company, 1900. 

Reflections of the justices, Judith Fabricant, ed., SJC Historical Society, 2009. 

A short history of the Massachusetts courts, by Alan J. Dimond, National Center for State Courts, 1975. 

Sketches of the judicial history of Massachusetts from 1630 to the Revolution in 1775, by Emory Washburn, Little Brown, 1840.

Contact

Phone

Within Massachusetts only

Within Massachusetts only

Online

Reference librarians online Chat with a law librarian 
Reference librarians via email masslawlib@gmail.com

Address

Administrative office (no law library at this location)
2 Center Plaza
9th Floor
Boston, MA 02108
Last updated: April 1, 2021
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