Trial Court Rules
Uniform Rules for Civil Commitment Proceedings for Alcohol and Substance Use Disorders

Trial Court Rules  Rule 11: Appeal

Table of Contents


Any person aggrieved by a decision of the District Court Department or the Boston Municipal Court Department may appeal to the Appellate Division of such Department within seven days. Upon request, the Appellate Division shall expedite consideration of any appeal.


Any person aggrieved by a decision of the Juvenile Court Department may appeal to the Appeals Court within seven days. Upon request, the Appeals Court shall expedite consideration of any appeal. 


The clerk shall serve notice of the filing of the appeal to any adverse party and to the facility to which a respondent was committed, if any.


(2016) After the promulgation of the original Uniform Rules, the Supreme Judicial Court approved the appellate review procedures in Rule 11. In re G.P., 473 Mass. 112, 123-24 (2015).


(2015) Rule 11 provides a direct appellate remedy for section 35 determinations to the appropriate Appellate Division or, in the case of the Juvenile Court, to the Appeals Court. See Hunt v. Appeals Ct., 444 Mass. 460, 463-66 (2005) (where a statute does not expressly provide an appellate remedy, rules may provide an appropriate avenue of appeal). Because a section 35 commitment cannot last longer than ninety days, a short time limit for filing a notice of appeal and a requirement of expediting the appeal upon request are necessary to avoid the appeal becoming moot. 

Although the appellee ordinarily will be the petitioner (in the case of an appeal by the respondent) or the respondent (in the case of an appeal by the petitioner), Rule 11(c) requires the clerk to notify the facility to which the respondent was committed. Knowledge of the appeal may require alterations to the respondent's treatment, and the facility may seek to be heard by the appellate court, either in support of or in opposition to continued commitment, in certain cases. 

Helpful information regarding the conduct of Section 35 commitment proceedings can be found in the Benchbook for District Court Judges, Proceedings Under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 123 (2011), published by the Judicial Institute, at pages 228-234. The Benchbook provides sources of clinical information relevant to the definitions of "alcoholic" and "substance abuser" and clinical criteria relevant to the determination of the "likelihood of serious harm." It also provides information on the availability of placements to assist the court when a commitment order is issued. It should be noted that the version of G.L. c. 123, § 35 that appears in the Benchbook was amended following its publication.

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