Press Release

Press Release Supreme Judicial Court Issues Order Restricting Court Appearances to Emergency Matters

For immediate release:
3/17/2020
  • Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
  • Appeals Court
  • Massachusetts Court System
  • Executive Office of the Trial Court

Media Contact for Supreme Judicial Court Issues Order Restricting Court Appearances to Emergency Matters

Jennifer Donahue and Erika Gully-Santiago

BOSTON, MAThe Supreme Judicial Court today ordered that, because of the public health emergency arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, beginning tomorrow (March 18, 2020) and until at least April 6, 2020, the only matters that will be heard in-person in Massachusetts state courthouses are emergency matters that cannot be held by videoconference or telephone. Each of the seven Trial Court departments, in new standing orders to be issued today, will define emergency matters for their departments. 

As a result of the SJC order, courthouses will be closed to the public except to conduct emergency hearings that cannot be resolved through a videoconference or telephonic hearing.  Clerk's offices shall remain open to the public to accept pleadings and other documents in emergency matters only. 

All trials in both criminal and civil cases scheduled to commence in Massachusetts state courts between today and April 17, 2020, are continued to a date no earlier than April 21, 2020, unless the trial is a civil case where the parties and the court agree that the case can be decided without the need for in-person appearance in court. Where a jury trial has commenced, the trial will end based on the manifest necessity arising from the pandemic and a new trial may commence after the public health emergency ends.

Courts, to the best of their ability, will attempt to address matters that can be resolved or advanced without in-person proceedings through communication by telephone, videoconferencing, email, or other comparable means.

The SJC and the Appeals Court in the coming days will offer guidance with regard to oral arguments scheduled in April in these appellate courts. 

Supreme Judicial Court Order limiting in-person appearances in state courthouses that cannot be resolved through a videoconference or telephonic hearing

Updates regarding the court's response to the COVID-19 pandemic are available on the court's website: https://www.mass.gov/guides/court-system-response-to-covid-19

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Media Contact for Supreme Judicial Court Issues Order Restricting Court Appearances to Emergency Matters

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.
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