Press Release

Press Release Supreme Judicial Court Issues New Order On Public Access to Courthouses and Facilities

For immediate release:
  • Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
  • Appeals Court
  • Massachusetts Court System
  • Executive Office of the Trial Court
  • District Court
  • Boston Municipal Court
  • Juvenile Court
  • Land Court
  • Probate and Family Court
  • Housing Court
  • Massachusetts Probation Service

Media Contact for Supreme Judicial Court Issues New Order On Public Access to Courthouses and Facilities

Jennifer Donahue and Erika Gully-Santiago

BOSTON, MAThe Supreme Judicial Court today issued an updated order regarding public access to Massachusetts state courthouses and court facilities during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The order will go into effect July 13, 2020.

Under a previous order, Third Updated Order Regarding Court Operations Under The Exigent Circumstances Created By The COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Pandemic, the SJC outlined that courthouses will physically reopen to the public for limited purposes, including some in-person proceedings, on July 13, 2020, but courts will continue to conduct most business virtually. The number of in-person proceedings will further expand during a second phase beginning on August 10, 2020.

The order issued today applies to (a) litigants, attorneys, witnesses, jurors, law enforcement personnel, contractors, vendors, media, and other members of the public when in or seeking entry to a Massachusetts state courthouse or other state court facility, including a probation office or a building that is temporarily being used for court proceedings (courthouse); and (b) non-court personnel whose place of work is in a courthouse (e.g., employees of a Registry of Deeds or the Social Law Library) whenever they are in the courthouse but outside of their immediate place of work. 

When courthouses reopen on July 13, entry will be limited to persons attending in-person proceedings, persons conducting business with a clerk’s, register’s, or recorder’s office, persons meeting with probation, and persons conducting business at other open offices in the courthouses. Persons seeking to enter will be screened to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The order outlines a specific screening protocol for those who wish to enter a courthouse.

The SJC today also issued a Supplemental Order Regarding Virtual Proceedings and Administration of Oaths and Affirmations.

All orders, standing orders, guidelines, and notices issued by any court department or appellate court in response to the pandemic, as well as all amendments, modifications, and supplements are posted upon issuance on the judiciary's COVID-19 webpage


Media Contact for Supreme Judicial Court Issues New Order On Public Access to Courthouses and Facilities

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court 

The Supreme Judicial Court is the Commonwealth's highest appellate court.

Appeals Court 

The Appeals Court is the Commonwealth's intermediate appellate court.

Massachusetts Court System 

The Massachusetts court system consists of the Supreme Judicial Court, the Appeals Court, the Executive Office of the Trial Court, the 7 Trial Court departments, the Massachusetts Probation Service, and the Office of Jury Commissioner.

Executive Office of the Trial Court 

The Executive Office of the Trial Court facilitates communication and enables joint leadership of the Trial Court by the Chief Justice of the Trial Court and the Court Administrator.

District Court 

The District Court Department hears a wide range of criminal, civil, housing, juvenile, mental health, and other types of cases.

Boston Municipal Court 

The Boston Municipal Court Department serves the City of Boston, and handles both criminal and civil matters.

Juvenile Court 

The Juvenile Court Department oversees civil and criminal matters statewide involving children including youthful offender, care and protection, and delinquency cases.

Land Court 

The Land Court oversees land registration, hears cases involving decisions by local planning boards and zoning boards of appeal, and handles most other property matters. It also has superintendence authority over the registered land offices in each Registry of Deeds. There are 7 Land Court justices, including Chief Justice Gordon H. Piper.

Probate and Family Court 

The Probate and Family Court Department handles matters involving families and children, like divorce, child support, and wills.

Housing Court 

Currently all non-emergency cases will be scheduled for, or continued to, a date no earlier than May. Parties will receive notice of rescheduled cases, but plaintiffs are advised to alert all parties of the scheduling change. Each Clerk-Magistrate, in consultation with the First Justice, has the discretion in his/her respective division to determine if an event is considered an emergency. If you need further assistance please refer to the department’s list of Hotline numbers relevant to the department such as the Clerk’s Office, Tenancy Preservation Program and Legal Services. This list can be accessed below under ‘What would you like to do?’.

Massachusetts Probation Service 

MPS's main goal is to keep communities safe and to provide people on probation with the rehabilitative tools they need to live a productive and law-abiding life.