Press Release

Press Release Supreme Judicial Court Issues New Order Regarding Court Operations, Including Twelve-Person Jury Trials

For immediate release:
4/15/2021
  • Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
  • Appeals Court
  • Executive Office of the Trial Court
  • Superior Court
  • Boston Municipal Court
  • District Court
  • Probate and Family Court
  • Juvenile Court
  • Housing Court
  • Land Court
  • Massachusetts Court System
  • Massachusetts Probation Service

Media Contact for Supreme Judicial Court Issues New Order Regarding Court Operations, Including Twelve-Person Jury Trials

Jennifer Donahue and Erika Gully-Santiago

BOSTON, MAThe Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) today issued an updated order regarding the operation of Massachusetts state courts and courthouses during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The new order goes into effect on May 1, 2021 and will replace the existing order issued on February 24, 2021.

The new order allows for the resumption of twelve-person jury trials in Superior Court criminal and sexually dangerous person cases as part of Phase 3 of the plan for the gradual resumption of jury trials. The Phase 3 recommended by the Jury Management Advisory Committee (JMAC) in its report of July 31, 2020 has been modified in some respects, but in general the new order authorizes the courts to conduct as many jury trials as possible in as many locations as possible, consistent with the recommended health and safety practices. To maximize the number of jury trials that can be conducted during Phase 3, certain cases that typically would be tried to juries of twelve will continue to be tried to juries of six (i.e., Superior and Housing Court civil cases), while others may continue to be tried to juries of six with the consent of the appropriate parties (i.e., Superior Court criminal and sexually dangerous person cases). In addition, certain jury trials will be subject to limitations on the number of peremptory challenges. The cases that will be tried during Phase 3, as well as the locations, are subject to the approval of the Chief Justice of the applicable Trial Court Department. Priority will continue to be given to conducting jury trials in cases where a party is in custody. 

Phase 3 will continue until the SJC issues further direction regarding the resumption of jury trials. As throughout the pandemic, all plans and expectations may be adjusted at any time in the ongoing effort to balance the safety of everyone who enters a courthouse with the fundamental constitutional right to a trial by jury.

"We are ready to increase the number and locations of jury trials," said Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Kimberly Budd, "but our courts will need to follow recommended health and safety practices, including mask-wearing, frequent hand washing, physical distancing, and courtroom and courthouse occupancy limitations, for some time to come."

Otherwise, courts will continue to conduct business virtually and in-person and courthouses will continue to be physically open to the public. Judges will continue to schedule and conduct bench trials and other hearings, either virtually or in-person. Each Trial Court department will continue to post notices to the court system's COVID-19 webpage identifying how (virtually or in-person) it is addressing various categories of matters.

Clerks', registers', and recorder’s offices will continue to be physically open to the public, while still endeavoring to conduct business virtually as much as possible.

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Media Contact for Supreme Judicial Court Issues New Order Regarding Court Operations, Including Twelve-Person Jury Trials

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.

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.

Superior Court 

The Superior Court Department is a statewide court that handles criminal and civil actions.

Boston Municipal Court 

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

District Court 

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

Probate and Family Court 

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

Juvenile Court 

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

Housing Court 

Summary Process, Small Claims and Supplementary process matters are now available for eFiling. Efiling for Civil cases will be introduced on August 17, 2020. For more information, please see the section below titled ‘eFiling in the Housing Court’.

Land Court 

The Land Court hears a wide range of cases involving real estate and land use, and oversees the Commonwealth’s system for the registration of title to real property.

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.

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.

Effective Monday, July 20, 2020, the Office of the Commissioner of Probation will be open to the public by appointment only. If you wish to make an appointment or speak with someone regarding sealing or expunging a record or have questions for the Records Unit, please call (617) 557-0225.
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