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Press Release Supreme Judicial Court Issues New Orders Regarding Court Operations and Access to Courthouses

For immediate release:
7/01/2021
  • 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 Orders Regarding Court Operations and Access to Courthouses

Jennifer Donahue and Erika Gully-Santiago

BOSTON, MAPrompted by the continued improving situation in the Commonwealth with respect to COVID-19, the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) today issued two updated orders regarding access to and the operation of Massachusetts state courts. The new orders go into effect on July 12, 2021.

The first order updates the rules for those seeking entry to a courthouse. It also removes occupancy limits and physical distancing requirements in courthouses, but requires everyone, whether fully vaccinated or not, to continue to wear a mask that covers their nose and mouth.

The second order provides for courts to largely begin conducting business as they did prior to the pandemic. Courthouses will be open and courts will be conducting business in person, although certain proceedings may still be conducted virtually. As for jury trials, there will be no further COVID-19-related limitations or restrictions on where and how they are conducted, other than the mask requirements noted above. While courts continue to work through the backlog of jury trials caused by the pandemic, however, certain cases that typically would be tried to juries of twelve (e.g., Superior and Housing Court civil cases) will continue to be tried to juries of six and subject to limitations on the number of peremptory challenges. Priority will continue to be given to conducting jury trials in cases where a party is in custody. The general tolling of speedy trial deadlines will expire on October 1, 2021.

"We are truly encouraged by the progress in the Commonwealth with respect to COVID-19," said Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Kimberly Budd, "and hope it will continue and allow courts to gradually return to normal. At the same time, we hope to take some of the lessons learned during the pandemic and apply them going forward, particularly when it comes to conducting certain proceedings virtually."

As throughout the pandemic, all plans and expectations regarding court access and operations may be adjusted at any time if the COVID-19 situation in the Commonwealth changes significantly.

Due to juror notice requirements, jurors will not be available for trials in some locations until September 7, 2021. For a list of locations and the dates they will have access to jury pools, visit https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-jury-information.

Each Trial Court department will continue to post notices to the court system's COVID-19 webpage identifying how (in-person or virtually) it is addressing various categories of matters.

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Media Contact for Supreme Judicial Court Issues New Orders Regarding Court Operations and Access to Courthouses

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 

To speak virtually with a member of a Housing Court division’s Clerk’s Office or Housing Specialist Department, click on the “Virtual Front Counters” link, available on each division’s location page and our ‘Housing Court Resources’ page. For information and resources that may benefit both landlords and tenants, such as Emergency Rental & Mortgage Assistance, Lawyer for the Day Program, and other resources, please see the ‘Housing Court Resources’ page, linked below.

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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