About the Appeals Court
The Appeals Court is the Commonwealth's intermediate appellate court. The Appeals Court is a court of general appellate jurisdiction, which means that the justices review decisions that the trial judges from the several Departments of the Trial Court have already made in many different kinds of cases. The Appeals Court also has jurisdiction over appeals from final decisions of three State agencies: the Appellate Tax Board, the Industrial Accident Board and the Commonwealth Employment Relations Board. The Appeals Court consists of a chief justice and twenty-four associate justices.
Appeals Court YouTube Channel
New: Guide to Appeals
The Clerk’s Office has published a “Guide to Civil and Criminal Appeals on the Appeals Court’s Panel (‘P’) Docket” as a downloadable PDF document. The guide contains explanations about the appellate process, relevant rules, and links to legal resources. Download the Guide to Appeals here.
Informal Brief Pilot for Self-Represented (“Pro Se”) parties
The Appeals Court is launching an optional Informal Brief Pilot Program for cases entered on the court’s “panel” docket, for decision by a panel of Justices. The program permits self-represented (“pro se”) parties to file an “informal” brief instead of a formal brief that strictly complies with the Massachusetts Rules of Appellate Procedure, which is what the Appeals Court typically requires. This pilot does not apply in the single justice session of the Appeals Court, or to attorneys, whether they are representing themselves or responding to an informal brief.
An informal brief differs from a formal brief in that it does not need a table of contents, table of authorities, corporate disclosure statement, summary of argument, or addendum, or need to comply with the standard rules regarding margins, font, and the certificate of compliance. An informal brief does, however, still need to comply with the rules about impounded and confidential information.
To file an informal brief, please visit the Informal Brief Pilot webpage here. Guidance and forms for the informal brief of the appellant, appellee, and appellant’s reply are provided, as are forms for an informal record appendix/supplemental appendix and an impounded record appendix.
The pilot program is expected to operate for one year, until September 30, 2024, after which the Appeals Court will evaluate it.
First en banc rehearing under court's pilot program
In April 2023, the Appeals Court held its first-ever en banc rehearing, pursuant to the court's pilot program that, beginning in late 2022, temporarily replaced its protocol under Sciaba Constr. Corp. v. Boston, 35 Mass. App. Ct. 181, 181 n.2 (1993). The en banc rehearing was livestreamed to the court's YouTube channel and can be viewed here. (The case is 2022-P-0300, Ferreira v. Charland.)
Under the pilot, draft published and rescript opinions are circulated to the justices for review, after which any justice may call for a vote by the justices on whether to grant en banc review. En banc review is granted only upon a majority vote of the justices on the basis that (1) the draft panel decision would conflict with a decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, the Supreme Judicial Court, or the Appeals Court and en banc review is necessary to maintain the uniformity of the court's decisions; or (2) the proceeding involves one or more questions of "exceptional importance."
If a majority of the justices vote in favor of en banc review, the parties are notified of the en banc rehearing date, the amount of time allotted for argument, and whether they are to submit supplemental briefs. The court may also solicit amicus briefs.
No party may request en banc review; such requests are not accepted.
En banc oral argument is conducted by remote videoconference platform (Zoom) and streamed for public access on the Appeals Court’s YouTube channel.
Policy on Motions for Remote Oral Argument in Panel Cases
Effective September 9, 2022, the Appeals Court has adopted a Policy Regarding Motions for Remote Oral Argument in Panel Cases. Please click the preceding link to view or download the policy.