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Juvenile Court Rules

Effective through close of business July 10, 2020

Juvenile Court Rules Juvenile Court Standing Order 6-20: Further extension of court operations under the exigent circumstances created by COVID-19

Rescinding and superseding Juvenile Court Standing Orders 1-20, 2-20, 3-20, and 4-20. 

Table of Contents

Introduction

WHEREAS, the Supreme Judicial Court issued an Order, OE-144, April 27, 2020, providing that from May 4, 2020 until at least July 1, 2020, Massachusetts courthouses will be closed to the public except to conduct emergency hearings that cannot be resolved virtually, either because such a hearing is impracticable or because it would be inconsistent with the protection of constitutional rights, and pursuant to my authority under G.L. c. 211B, §10, 

It is hereby ORDERED that Juvenile Court Standing Order 1-20 issued on Friday, March 13, 2020, Juvenile Court Standing Order 2-20 issued on Tuesday, March 17, 2020, Juvenile Court Standing Order 3-20 issued on Wednesday, March 25, 2020 and Juvenile Court Standing Order 4-20 issued on Monday, April 6, 2020 are rescinded and superseded by this Standing Order. 

The term “virtually” as used throughout this Standing Order shall refer to the resolution of a matter through the use of a telephone, videoconference, email, electronic filings and/or other comparable means. 

This Order will remain in effect until a subsequent order issues rescinding this Order. 

I. Emergency matters

Courthouses will continue to be closed to the general public except where entry is required to address emergency matters that cannot be resolved virtually because it is not practicable or would be inconsistent with the protection of constitutional rights. 

The following matters have been designated as emergency matters in the Juvenile Court. 

A. Care and Protection Matters 

1. Petitions. All petitions filed pursuant to G.L. c. 119, § 24 shall be emailed or faxed to the appropriate court location by the petitioner. After review by the judge, the judge’s order, including the determination required by G.L. c. 119, § 29C, shall be emailed or faxed to the parties. 

2. 72-Hour Hearings. If the judge grants temporary custody of the child(ren) to the Department of Children and Families, the temporary custody hearing required under G.L. c. 119, § 24, shall be held virtually unless the parties agree to waive the statutorily required 72-hour period and continue the temporary custody hearing until after July 1, 2020. 

B. Child Requiring Assistance (CRA) 

1. CRA Runaway. If a parent contacts the court regarding the filing of a child requiring assistance application alleging that the child is a runaway, the court shall make every effort to provide the parent with the application without requiring the parent to appear in person at the court. Once the application is completed and filed with the court, the court shall schedule the preliminary hearing which shall be held virtually. 

C. Delinquency/Youthful Offender Proceedings 

1. Arraignments. All arraignments for any juvenile arrested and detained by the Department of Youth Services shall be conducted virtually through prior arrangement between the appropriate court location and the Office of the General Counsel for the Department of Youth Services. 

2. Dangerousness Hearings. Any hearing required for a juvenile currently detained as a result of an order issued pursuant to G.L. c. 276, § 58A, shall be conducted virtually through prior arrangement between the appropriate court location and the Office of the General Counsel for the Department of Youth Services. If the District Attorney requests a § 58A hearing, the hearing shall be conducted virtually. 

3. Detained Youth. Any motions for bail reconsideration, motions seeking release of youth detained as a result of a bail revocation order or detained awaiting a violation of probation hearing shall be considered in accordance with the provisions of Juvenile Court Standing Order 5-20. 

D. G.L. c. 123, § 35 Hearings 

If a petitioner contacts the court regarding the filing of a petition for commitment pursuant to G.L. c. 123, § 35, the court shall make every effort to provide the petitioner with the petition without requiring the petitioner to appear in person at the court. Once the petition is completed and filed with the court, the court shall schedule the hearing which shall take place virtually. 

E. G.L. c. 123, §§ 7, 8 Hearings 

The court shall receive any petitions filed pursuant to G.L. c. 123, § 7 as emergency petitions. The hearing shall take place virtually within the statutorily prescribed period. 

F. Harassment Prevention Orders 

1. Emergency Harassment Prevention Orders and the hearing after initial notice shall be conducted virtually. 

2. All emergency protection orders (G.L. c. 258E) issued after notice prior to the issuance of this order and that are due to expire on or after March 16, 2020 shall remain in effect until the matter is rescheduled and heard by the court. 

3. Any orders issued prior to March 16th with a hearing scheduled during the pendency of this order are to remain in full force and effect until the matter is rescheduled and heard by the court, unless an order issues by the court terminating the order at an earlier date. 

4. Any protection order (G.L. c. 258E) issued at a hearing after notice during the pendency of this order which was held virtually may be issued up to the full statutory period. 

II. Non-emergency virtual hearings

The matters listed below shall be conducted by a judge administratively or virtually only without the physical presence of the parties, counsel, or other members of the public so as to avoid person to person contact and the possibility of transmission of the virus. 

The following matters, where it is practicable in view of skeletal court staffing, technological constraints and the need to prioritize emergency matters, shall be heard in the Juvenile Court: 

A. Care and Protection Matters 

1. Temporary Custody Orders, Orders for Anti-Psychotic Medication and Extraordinary Medical Treatment. Any temporary custody order, order for anti-psychotic medication and/or extraordinary medical treatment set to expire or with a scheduled event shall be heard administratively or virtually as determined by the First Justice. In addition, a party may file a motion via email or fax to the appropriate court location to bring the matter forward upon a demonstration of exigent circumstances. The party shall note on the title page of the motion that the motion concerns exigent circumstances and that the party is seeking review of the motion prior to July 1, 2020. It shall be in the discretion of the First Justice for the Juvenile Court division with jurisdiction over the matter to determine whether the motion may be heard prior to July 1, 2020. 

2. Petitions for Do Not Resuscitate/Withdrawing Life-Sustaining Medical Treatment. Any petition filed pursuant to G.L. c. 119, § 38A shall be filed via email or fax to the appropriate court location. The petition shall be decided on the pleadings and the parties shall be informed of the judge’s order via email or fax. If the judge determines that a hearing is necessary, the hearing shall be held virtually. 

3. Identification of Subject Children in Care and Protection Matters. The identification of the subject child in a care and protection matter pursuant to G.L. c. 119, § 26(a) may be conducted virtually. 

4. Permanency Hearings. All permanency hearings shall begin to be heard virtually. 

5. Hearings to Nominate a Custodian (so called 3rd Party Custody Hearings). Any hearing in which a party to a care and protection case seeks to nominate an individual as a temporary custodian may be heard virtually if the parties demonstrate to the court that they can meet the requirements set forth under G.L. c. 119, § 26(b)(2)(i) for the hearing. Any hearing to nominate a temporary custodian where the parties are unable to demonstrate that they can meet the requirements of G.L. c. 119, § 26(b)(2)(i) may be held at the discretion of the judge. 

6. Court Investigators and Guardians Ad Litem. Any court investigator appointed to a care and protection matter shall resume and/or begin and complete the investigation as required by G.L. c. 119, §§ 21A, and 24. The Administrative Office of the Juvenile Court shall issue further guidelines for court investigators regarding report deadlines and extensions, conducting of interviews, document reviews, etc. during this time of emergency operations. Court investigators shall not conduct any in-person interviews and shall conduct interviews virtually. Court investigators shall mail one copy of the completed investigation to the appropriate court location. Court investigators shall not fax or email any reports to the court. Court investigators shall contact the court by phone only with any questions regarding their appointment. 

Any guardian ad litem appointed shall resume/and or begin their work as outlined by the scope of their appointment. The Administrative Office of the Juvenile Court shall issue further guidelines for guardians ad litem regarding deadlines and extensions, conducting interviews, document reviews, etc. during this time of emergency operations. Guardians ad litem shall not conduct any in-person interviews and shall conduct interviews virtually. 

All bills shall continue to be mailed to the appropriate court locations with the understanding that there may be a delay in the processing of bills due to limited staff. 

B. Adoptions 

If a party requests to hold the adoption as originally scheduled, the court shall inform the party that an in-person hearing is not possible but the court will issue the appropriate decree on the originally scheduled date and mail the decree to the parties or the court may hold the hearing virtually. In addition, if the Department of Children and Families notifies the court that it has a completed adoption packet that is ready to be filed with the court and the parties would like to move forward with the adoption, the court shall accept the adoption for filing and schedule the matter for the issuance of the decree as soon as practicable. No in-person hearing shall occur, though a hearing may be held virtually and, if issued, the court shall mail the decree to the parties. A completed adoption packet shall contain all forms necessary for the adoption as required by the court. 

C. Guardianships 

Any guardianship annual report review scheduled to occur shall be held as originally scheduled. The review shall be conducted administratively by the court. If after reviewing the annual report the judge determines that a hearing is necessary, the court shall schedule the hearing to occur as soon as practicable. Such hearing shall be held virtually only. 

D. Child Requiring Assistance (CRA) 

All school based CRA hearings shall be continued to a date after September 1, 2020. All other CRA hearings shall be continued to July 1, 2020 or a date thereafter. Any CRA cases where a disposition order is scheduled to expire following any possible extensions of the order shall be dismissed. It shall be in the discretion of the First Justice as to whether any CRA cases where a child is currently in the temporary custody of the Department of Children and Families shall be scheduled to be heard virtually during this time in order to review the custody status of the child. In addition, a party may file a motion via email or fax to the appropriate court location to bring the matter forward upon a demonstration of exigent circumstances when the child is in the temporary custody of the Department of Children and Families. The party shall note on the title page of the motion that the motion concerns exigent circumstances and that the party is seeking review of the motion prior to July 1, 2020. 

E. Delinquency/Youthful Offender Proceedings 

1. Probable Cause or ‘Show Cause’ Hearings. Show cause hearings scheduled between March 16, 2020 and July 1, 2020 shall be continued to a date set by the Clerk-Magistrate. Show cause hearings on all applications for complaints filed between March 16, 2020 and July 1, 2020 shall be scheduled to take place on a date set by the Clerk-Magistrate. 

2. Tenders of Plea. In a delinquency or youthful offender matter, if the juvenile seeks to enter a tender of plea, the juvenile's attorney may file the tender of plea via email with the appropriate Juvenile Court location. The tender of plea must be signed, or e-signed, by the juvenile, his or her attorney, and the district attorney prior to being submitted. A hearing shall be scheduled as soon as possible and shall take place virtually. 

3. Summons Arraignments. Summons arraignments on complaints issued between March 16, 2020 and July 1, 2020 shall be continued to a date determined by the Clerk-Magistrate. The Clerk-Magistrate’s office shall notify the attorney of the day of their appointment to the case prior to the scheduled date of the arraignment in order for the attorney to begin work regarding the arraignment. 

F. Motions for Funds. 

Pursuant to CPCS v. Chief Justice of the Trial Court (No. 2), SJC-12926, (2020) any motions for funds filed where the juvenile is currently detained pre-trial, has been civilly committed pursuant to G.L. c. 123, § 35, or has been permanently committed to the Department of Youth Services, shall be heard as soon as possible. The motion may be heard administratively or virtually. 

G. New Filings in Non-Emergency Matters 

Unless otherwise identified in this Standing Order, parties shall file new matters by mail, email or fax. The filings will be docketed, and the event scheduled for a date to be determined by the First Justice and Clerk-Magistrate. 

III. Other court business

A. Suspension of Court Rules. Any Court rule, criminal or civil, that impedes a judge’s or Clerk-Magistrate’s ability to utilize available technologies to limit in-person contact is suspended for the duration of this Order. 

B. Recording and Docketing of Virtual Hearings. All virtual hearings shall be held, to the extent practicable, in a courtroom or other location that can be recorded by FTR. Clerk-Magistrates shall docket all cases in MassCourts consistent with normal procedures. 

C. Additional Matters. Divisions of the Juvenile Court may identify additional matters not otherwise listed in this Standing Order that the First Justice of the division in their discretion finds that the division is capable of hearing virtually prior to July 1, 2020 where it is practicable in view of skeletal court staffing, technological constraints, courthouse closures and the need to prioritize emergency matters. 

Downloads for Juvenile Court Standing Order 6-20: Further extension of court operations under the exigent circumstances created by COVID-19

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