SJC Issues Order Restricting Court Appearances

The Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) on Tuesday or­dered that, because of the public health emergency aris­ing from the COVID-19 pan­demic, beginning March 18 and at least until April 6, 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 March 17, 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.

Clerks’ offices shall remain open to the public to accept pleadings and other docu­ments in emergency matters only.  

All trialsin both criminal and civil cases scheduled to commence in Massachusetts state courts between today and April 17 are continued to a date no earlier than April 21, unless the trialis 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.

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