Rules of Civil Procedure

Rules of Civil Procedure  Civil Procedure Rule 3: Commencement of action

Effective Date: 09/01/2021
Updates: Amended December 13, 1981, effective January 1, 1982 Amended July 20, 2021, effective September 1, 2021 (488 Mass. 1401)

Table of Contents

Rule 3

A civil action is commenced by (1) mailing to the clerk of the proper court by certified or registered mail a complaint and an entry fee prescribed by law, (2) filing such complaint and an entry fee with such clerk, or (3) submitting the complaint to the court through the court’s electronic filing system accompanied by electronic payment of the entry fee pursuant to the Massachusetts Rules of Electronic Filing. Actions brought pursuant to G.L. c. 185 for registration or confirmation shall be commenced by filing a surveyor’s plan and complaint on a form furnished by the Land Court. Waiver of the entry fee on the ground of indigency may be sought in accordance with G.L. c. 261, § 27C.

Reporter's notes

(2021) In light of the adoption of the Massachusetts Rules of Electronic Filing (Mass. R. E. F.) (Supreme Judicial Court Rule 1:25, effective September 1, 2018), Rule 3 has been revised to reflect a third method to commence a civil action. Under Mass. R. E. F. 6(a), a party may initiate a civil action through the court's electronic filing ("e-filing") system. Such an action shall be deemed to be filed and commenced if submitted through the e-filing system by 11:59 p.m. on a business day (unless rejected by the court or submitted on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday). Mass. R. E. F. 4(c)(1) and (2). Reference should be made to the Mass. R. E. F. for details.

A sentence has been added to Rule 3 to reflect the provisions of G.L. c. 261, § 27C, regarding waiver of the filing fee on the ground of indigency. The statute provides that if an affidavit of indigency "is filed with the complaint or other paper initiating the proceeding, the clerk shall receive the complaint or other paper for filing and proceed as if all regular filing fees had been paid." G.L. c. 261, § 27C(1). The statute states that the filing fee is "conditional" until the court grants or denies the request for waiver and if the request is denied, the statute allows the fee to be paid within five days.

(1982) Rule 3, substantially enlarges Federal Rule 3, and drastically alters prior Massachusetts practice, by eliminating the trifurcation of delivery to an officer, service, and "entry." Henceforth, an action is considered commenced, for all purposes, including the applicable statute of limitations, when either the plaintiff mails to the clerk the complaint and any required entry fee, or the clerk receives the complaint and the fee. The requirement of certified or registered mail is calculated to minimize problems of proof. The phrase "proper court" means the court in which requirements of venue and jurisdiction (personal and subject matter) are met.

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Updates: Amended December 13, 1981, effective January 1, 1982 Amended July 20, 2021, effective September 1, 2021 (488 Mass. 1401)

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