Frequently asked questions
1. What steps has the court taken to protect those who go to courthouses? What health and safety measures are in place if I visit a courthouse? What will the entry screening be like?
The Trial Court has outlined what you need to know about protocols and procedures that are in place at courthouses during the pandemic. You can learn about entry screening, personal protective equipment (PPE), social distancing in Massachusetts courts, and more by visiting these pages:
- What to know before going to a courthouse during COVID-19
- Protocols and procedures in courthouses during COVID-19
- Cleaning and physical barriers in court facilities during COVID-19
2. How do I find information about my case or my court date? When will my case be heard?
You can access public electronic case information on MassCourts.org. Please see how to search court dockets online and which types of cases are available to the public online for more information.
If you are not sure when your case will be heard, please call or email your specific court. You can look up your court’s phone number using the Courthouse Locator or find your court’s email on the Court department emails page.
3. How do I know if I should show up at my hearing in-person or remotely? What do I do if I receive a notice of an in-person hearing and I am not comfortable coming to court?
If you are not sure whether to show up at a hearing in-person or remotely, please call or email your specific court. You can look up your court’s phone number using the Courthouse Locator or find your court’s email on the Court department emails page.
If you are not comfortable coming to court, you should make the judge aware of your preference to handle the matter remotely. The matter will not be postponed but you may be able to choose to use technology to participate remotely, rather than coming into court, provided the judge handling your case agrees.
4. What should I do if I am feeling sick and have an in-person hearing coming up?
If you are feeling sick, you should not go to court. Instead, contact the appropriate party depending on the reason you were going to court:
- If you have a lawyer, contact your lawyer
- If you don’t have a lawyer, call the clerk's office for the court where you are scheduled to appear
- If you’re a lawyer scheduled to appear before a judge, contact the clerk’s office or contact that session directly by telephone
- If you are scheduled to meet with a probation officer, contact the probation officer or appropriate probation office by phone
- If you’re a juror sitting on an ongoing trial or grand jury or appearing for empanelment, call the phone number you were provided when you were seated on the jury or summoned for empanelment
- If you’re not sure who to contact, call the clerk's office for the court where you were scheduled to appear
5. I have a specific question about court proceedings. How can I find the answer? Is there a court hotline I can call to get help?
You can call or email your court. You can look up your court’s phone number using the Courthouse Locator or find your court’s email on the Court department emails page. For general court questions, you can call the Trial Court helpline at Trial Court Help Line at 833-91-COURT from 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
6. How do I know if my courthouse is open? Where can I get answers to my questions?
To find out if your courthouse is physically open, please see the page Courthouse closures due to COVID-19. This page includes a list of courthouses that are currently closed. If your courthouse is not on this list, your courthouse is open. If you have any questions, please call or email your court directly, or call the Trial Court Help Line at 833-91-COURT from 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
7. How is the court providing services remotely? What do I do if I can’t reach anyone in the clerk’s office by phone?
There are a few ways you can contact your court virtually. You can:
- Email your court. You can find your court’s email on the Court department emails page.
- Attend a Housing Court virtual front counter or Probate and Family Court virtual registry via Zoom meeting to get help from court staff. Learn more about remote court services offered on the page Remote court services.
- Call the Trial Court helpline at Trial Court Help Line at 833-91-COURT from 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. for answers to general court questions.
8. How can I get public access to court hearings? What is the official record? When are any video recordings deleted?
A daily list of court events is posted on the main page for each court location. Instructions on how to listen to a court event are also provided there. Certain court events of particular public interest will be livestreamed on YouTube. Any video of a YouTube streamed court event does not remain on YouTube following the event.
Please note that public access is not available for all case types and court departments.
The official record is captured by FTR (For The Record), a digital audio recording system, which serves as the official record captured by the Clerk’s staff. To find out how to order the audio of a court proceeding, please follow the instructions for the court department you would like to order from.
- Order the audio of a Land Court proceeding
- Order the audio of a Superior Court proceeding
- Order the audio of proceeding in the Boston Municipal, District, Housing, Juvenile or Probate & Family Court
9. How can I request an interpreter to assist me for a court event?
Our Office of Court Interpreter Services has a staff of 40 interpreters in 9 languages. If you need the services of an interpreter, call or email the court’s Clerk’s Office to ask them to request an interpreter for you. You can look up your court’s phone number using the Courthouse Locator or find your court’s email on the Court department emails page. Alternatively, the Help Line at 833-91COURT has Spanish and Portuguese interpreters available to assist you.
10. How do I pay court fees?
If you file by email, mail, or in person, the Clerk’s Office for the court you are filing in will contact you or advise you regarding payment. Fees can be paid by:
- Giving a credit card by phone
- Mailing in a check
- Paying in person with a check, cash, or a credit card
For more information on court fees, please see Court Filing Fees & Payment Information.
11. When does the eviction moratorium end?
The Massachusetts moratorium on evictions expired on October 17, 2020, however a federal moratorium established by the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) is effective through December. The CDC moratorium will prevent evictions for non-payment for qualified tenants who submit a written declaration to their landlord. Courts will accept filings and process cases, and may enter judgments but will not issue an order of execution (the court order that allows a landlord to evict a tenant) until after the expiration of the CDC order. Protection is limited to households who meet certain income and vulnerability criteria.
Please see the information provided by the Housing Court and Land Court to learn how best to proceed.
12. What should I do if I do not want to appear in person for an oral argument?
When a case has been scheduled to be heard in person, an attorney or self-represented litigant who does not want to appear in person has two options (or may ask for both, in the alternative):
- File a motion asking that the hearing be conducted virtually: If this motion is allowed, the hearing will be conducted virtually by videoconference or telephone, with no in-person appearance in the courtroom (although the judge may still be present in the courtroom).
- File a motion to be excused from in-person appearance: If this motion is allowed, the hearing will be conducted in the courtroom, but the attorney or self-represented litigant will appear by videoconference or telephone, while other attorneys or litigants are allowed to argue in person.
A party bringing such a motion should confer with the other parties where practicable before filing the motion, and shall serve it on the other parties in the same manner as other motions. The court will rule on the motion in advance of the hearing.
13. I want to get help from a Court Service Center. Can I contact them virtually?
Yes. Court Service Centers are providing help virtually with the following types of matters, with variations by court:
- 209A Abuse Prevention Orders (restraining orders)
- 258E Harassment Prevention Orders
- Commitments (Section 35 and 12)
- Emergency Guardianship of an Incapacitated Person
- Emergency Guardianship of Minor
- Emergency Probate and Family Court filings relating to custody/parenting time/child support
- Emergency Modifications of Child Support (varies by county)
- Housing Temporary Restraining Orders
- Housing motions to vacate default entered since March 1, 2020
- Housing motions to vacate a dismissal for failure to appear entered since March 1, 2020
- Housing motions to stay an execution
If you are facing any of these issues, you can contact Court Service Centers by videoconference or telephone:
- Via videoconference: https://www.zoomgov.com/j/1615261140 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. from Monday through Friday.
- Via phone: (646) 828-7666 (Meeting ID 1615261140)
For more information on how to contact Court Service Centers virtually, please see Important Update About Court Service Centers.
|Last updated:||October 23, 2020|