Cases are scheduled for hearing in the order in which they were filed unless there is a particular reason that a case should be taken out of order. Our docket list is in the order of the date the case was filed and its Docket Number, and you can tell where you are in the list by using your case docket number. This won't tell you exactly when your case will be heard, but you can come up with a reasonable estimate based on where you are on the list. We are currently scheduling approximately 30 cases per month for evidentiary hearings.
We do take some cases out of order, and here are the most common reasons why:
1. We schedule disability cases on a priority basis. As a general matter, these are cases in which delay will normally cause the greatest hardship.
2. Any party may file a Motion to Expedite for "good cause shown." The most common reasons given are economic hardship and health issues. If a party believes his/her matter is one that is of such urgency that it should take precedence over other cases, this fact should be made known to DALA by means of a written Motion to Expedite stating the reasons for the request and sending copies to all other parties. Such a motion should be specific and supported by affidavits as to the facts. The decision to schedule a case out of order is solely within the discretion of the Chief Administrative Magistrate.
3. If a case does not require an evidentiary hearing, it gets assigned immediately to a Magistrate for a decision on the written record. 801 CMR 1.01(10)(c) provides that a case may be submitted for decision on written materials:
Submission Without a Hearing. Any party may elect to waive a hearing and submit his/her case upon written submissions. Submission of a case without a hearing does not relieve the Parties from the necessity of proving the facts supporting their allegations or defenses on which a Party has the burden of proof.
Submission on written materials is appropriate where the facts are not in genuine dispute. Either the parties agree about the underlying facts or they are established by undisputed records. In such cases, the only issue is a question of law or the proper interpretation of a particular statute and there is no need for any live witnesses to appear at a hearing and testify under oath. If a party elects to submit the matter on written materials without a hearing, all parties will be required to submit copies of any documents they intend to be included as part of the evidentiary record in the case along with their proposed Findings of Fact and any written arguments they want to be considered by the Magistrate in deciding the case.
4. We may conclude that a matter will likely not require a hearing based on the types of issues or documents filed with the appeal. In such a case, we will order the parties to identify the factual issues that require an evidentiary hearing and the evidence they will introduce to support their positions on the issue. In the event we conclude, based on the parties' filings, there is no genuine issue of any material fact, we may submit the matter to a magistrate for immediate determination on the written record.
5. If a case is identical to one that is currently on appeal in the courts, we or the parties may recommend that the matter be stayed pending the courts' final resolution of the matter. This procedure benefits us and the other litigants waiting for hearings as well as the parties in the stayed cases because we are not wasting scarce resources on a matter that is already being resolved by the courts. If we decide a matter that is identical to a matter on appeal, the parties will be required to file their own appeal in order to preserve their rights pending the outcome of the other matter. This results in an unnecessary expense that could have been avoided by staying the matter before us.
6. Sometimes multiple matters involve the same issues of law or fact. We may consolidate later cases with earlier ones, either formally or informally, so as to decide the identical issues in all cases at the same time.