Massachusetts law about the Massachusetts court system

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

Supreme Judicial Court

Appeals Court

Trial Court: Start here to find all other state courts

Specialty courts
Specialty courts are problem-solving court sessions that provide court-supervised probation and mandated treatment.

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

Action Plan for Hiring and Promotion of Trial Court Administrative Employees 
SJC Task Force for Hiring in the Judicial Branch, August 9, 2011

Action Plan for Hiring and Promotion of Employees of the Trial Court Recorder, Clerks and Registers of Probate 
SJC Task Force for Hiring in the Judicial Branch, November 8, 2011

2017 Massachusetts Trial Court Report on the Access and Fairness Survey
Executive Office of the Trial Court, December 2017

Enhancing the Delivery of Quality Justice: Report on the Access and Fairness Survey Project
Administrative Office of the Trial Court, May 2009

Final Report of the Supreme Judicial Court on Hiring in the Judicial Branch 
Scott Harshbarger, Chair, December, 2011

Massachusetts Trial Court Staffing Study, National Center for State Courts, 2005

Massachusetts Trial Court Strategic Plan, June 2013

The Report of the Chief Justice's Commission on the Future of the Courts-Reinventing Justice 2022, 1992

Report of the Independent Counsel [on the Massachusetts Probation Department] (The Ware Report), November 9, 2010

See also, Statement of the Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court Relative to the Report of the Independent Counsel

Report of the Massachusetts Court Management Advisory Board: Legislative Action Required to Achieve Managerial Excellence in the Trial Courts, CMAB, March 2010
Recommends significant structural changes to the Mass. court system

Report of the Massachusetts Court Technology Visiting Committee, Spring 2016

Report of the Study Committee on Trial Transcripts, Submitted to the Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court, June 30, 2003

Report of the Supreme Judicial Court's Ad Hoc Committee on Bosch Litigation, 2014.
The committee recommends that "No longer would [the SJC] hear and decide every Bosch case in Massachusetts. The cases instead would be allocated between the Supreme Judicial Court and the Probate and Family Court, based on the nature of the issues involved. Under the proposed approach, the Supreme Judicial Court would concentrate on those cases that involve novel or unsettled issues of Massachusetts law or are otherwise of significance beyond the parties and the specific facts of the case."

Report of the Visiting Committee on Managing with Data in the Massachusetts Trial Court, November 2017
"The Committee’s recommendations are aimed at facilitating the Trial Court’s ongoing transition from the stage of collecting data and tabulating and reporting metrics to the more sophisticated uses of data analyses to gain insights that will guide management decisions, which many Trial Court leaders already expect and increasingly require."

Report of the Work Group on Cost and Time Efficiencies in the Massachusetts Courts, Boston Bar Association, November 15, 2005 
"This informal Work Group was formed by the Administration of Justice Section in January 2004 for the purposes of identifying cost and time inefficiencies that currently exist in the handling of state court cases, and exploring whether more efficient attorney and judicial practices might reduce those inefficiencies." "This report sets forth the Work Group's identification of commonly occurring inefficiencies in Superior Court, District Court and Boston Municipal Court cases, as well as recommendations to eliminate or reduce the same."

Report to the Legislature on Court Relocations, Mass. Trial Court, August 10, 2011

Report to the Supreme Judicial Court [on acquittal rates in DUI cases], R.J. Cinquegrana, October, 2012

Separate and Secure Waiting Area Task Force Implementation Progress Report, July 1, 2017

Supreme Judicial Court Study Group on Eyewitness Evidence: Report and Recommendations to the Justices, July 25, 2013

The Visiting Committee on Management in the Courts Report to Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall (the Monan Report), March 2003

Within Our Reach: Gender, Racial and Ethnic Equality in the Courts, Supreme Judicial Court, March 2004

Access to court records

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."

A Guide to Public Access, Sealing and Expungement of District Court Records, Mass. District Court, September 2013
Covers access to criminal cases, civil cases, abuse prevention proceedings, mental health cases, juvenile cases, paternity cases, and more. Also includes information on the sealing of criminal records, including forms, and the procedure for expungement of criminal records.

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 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

Checklist for Preparation of Brief and Appendix, Mass. Appeals Court
Lists all necessary components, with references to court rules for each

Checklist for E-Briefs, Mass. Appeals Court
Lists all necessary components, with references to court rules for each

Court Guides, 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."

Featured Practice Tips from the Superior Court Bench, MCLE
A "series of short video briefings offering practical and sage advice from more than forty active and alumni members of the Massachusetts Superior Court."

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."

Google Mistrials, Twittering Jurors, Juror Blogs and Other Technological Hazards National Center for State Courts

Homeless Court Gives Offenders New Start, Office of the Commissioner of Probation
"Homeless people or those who are at risk of losing their homes can clear up their outstanding warrants or have their minor misdemeanor or non-violent cases disposed of in the Homeless Court, the first and only one of its kind in Massachusetts."

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

Massachusetts Trial Court Policy on Juror Use of Personal Communication Devices, Administrative Office of the Trial Court

MUPC Estate Administration Procedural Guide, June 2016.

Ryan v. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Dist. Court Mass. (Civil Action No. 19-11003-IT), June 20, 2019.
Federal court issued a preliminary injunction barring ICE civil arrests of "parties, witnesses, and others attending Massachusetts courthouses on official business while they are going to, attending, or leaving the courthouse."

Trial Court Policy on Possession & Use of Cameras & Personal Electronic Devices, Executive Office of the 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

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Within Massachusetts only

Online

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Address

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9th Floor
Boston, MA 02108
Last updated: July 8, 2019
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