Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Emergency Notice

COVID-19 and Court and Administrative Hearings

Reviewed July 6, 2020

Court Hearings

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued an updated order. Courthouses will reopen to the public for limited purposes, including some in-person proceedings, on July 13, 2020. But courts will continue to do most business over the phone or using videoconferencing.

When courthouses reopen on July 13, they will admit you into the courthouse only if you are:

  • attending an in-person proceeding, 
  • doing business with a clerk’s, register’s, or recorder’s office,
  • meeting with probation, or 
  • doing business at other open offices in the courthouses.

And they will screen people to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

Beginning August 10, 2020, the courts will start to increase the number of in-person proceedings they allow.  

The Trial Court departments use the court system's COVID-19 webpage to notify the public about the kinds of hearings they will hold in person.

If you have an emergency, the court will still try to handle it so that no one has to enter the courthouse.

What is an emergency matter?

Each Trial Court issued an order that describes the emergencies in their court. Emergencies include emergency protection and harassment prevention orders, arraignments of new arrests, bail reviews, dangerousness hearings, mental health commitment orders, and care and protection orders See the trial courts in your area to see the kinds of cases they consider an emergency.

If you need an emergency restraining order, see Asking the court for a restraining order or harassment prevention order during COVID-19.

What about cases that are not emergencies?

The courts are handling some cases that are not emergencies as long as this can be done virtually. They will be doing more after July 13. See the court system's COVID-19 webpage to find out more.

Some courts will have drop-boxes you can use to hand deliver documents you need to file. But see the court system's COVID-19 webpage to learn about other ways you can file.

What about jury trials?

There will be no jury trials until at least September 8, 2020.

What can I do if I need to contact the court?

Call the court where your case is, or where you need to file your emergency case. Use the Courthouse Locator page to find the court you need and the phone number to call.

If you cannot reach your local court, call the Trial Court’s Help Line - (833) 912-6878. The HelpLine can look up information about your case and answer questions. They are open
8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

If you cannot get through on the phone, email the clerk of your court. See this list of email addresses on the court website.

See the courts' web pageCourt system response to COVID-19 for more information.

The Trial courts are

District Courts and the Boston Municipal Court

  • The court is hearing emergency matters and some criminal matters virtually.
  • Most non-emergency civil matters scheduled after March 18th, 2020 for an in-court event, like small claims trials and administrative reviews, are rescheduled for after June 30, 2020.
  • Each court can decide to hear non-emergency matters by video conferencing or over the telephone.
  • There will be no jury trials until at least September 8, 2020.
  • See District Court Standing Orders.
  • See Boston Municipal Court Standing Orders.

Housing Court

  • Hearings should be conducted over the telephone or through video conferencing.
  • All deadlines that were after March 17,2020, are now pushed back to no earlier than June 30, 2020.
  • Deadlines in non-essential cases are on hold until the end of the Eviction Moratorium.
  • All non-essential eviction hearings in Housing Court are postponed until July 1, 2020, or later.
  • You can file an emergency case asking the court to order your landlord to:
    • Let you in your apartment,
    • Turn on your heat, water, or utilities,
    • Pay for utilities,
    • Stop the sheriff from physically removing you from your home.
  • Your landlord can also file if they need something like:
    • To get into your apartment for an emergency like a burst water pipe, gas fumes, etc.,
    • An order to stop property damage.
  • Any default judgment entered after March 1, 2020, shall be vacated, upon motion.
  • There will be no jury trials until at least September 8, 2020.
  • See Housing Court Standing Orders 5-20 Further modifications,  4-20 Supplement,  3-20 Supplement, and 2-20 Relating to the Coronavirus Outbreak

Probate and Family Court

See Probate and Family Court during COVID-19.

See the standing orders for cases in Probate and Family Court.

  • It describes emergencies and non - emergencies.
  • It extends custody, treatment plan, guardianship and conservatorship orders, and
  • Suspends Lawyer for the Day and Community Service programs until July 1, 2020.

See also standing-order for Parent Education Program.  

Juvenile Court

See the standing orders for cases in Juvenile Court. Some of the parts of the order are:

  • 72 hour Care and Protection hearings will be held over the phone or through video conference if you cannot wait to have the hearing until after July 1, 2020.
  • Arraignments will be held over the phone or by video conferencing.
  • 258e Harassment hearings will be held over the phone or by video conferencing, those due to expire will still be in effect until the court can schedule another hearing
  • In non-emergencies, you can file a case by using the dropbox outside the courthouse if the court has a dropbox. The case will get a case number and filing date, but the court will not schedule anything until after July 1, 2020.

Probation Department

  • The court has changed other conditions of probation including drug testing, community service, DNA testing, and others - see the Probation Department orders.

Land Court

See the standing orders for cases in Land Court.

Superior Court 

See the standing orders for cases in Superior Court.

General state court information

  • If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or any exposure to it:
    • You may not enter a courthouse or other state court facility, including probation offices, until the SJC decides it is safe to remove the restrictions.
    • If you try to enter a courthouse or other state court facility you will be breaking the law and security will refuse to let you enter.

Courts will contact members of juries now hearing cases. Anyone with pending matters should contact the Clerks Office.

The courts urge all court users and staff to be vigilant in applying social distancing and hygiene precautions to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

  • Pay your court fees online. If you cannot pay online you do not have to pay until June 1, 2020. 
  • If you cannot afford the cost of going to court, normally you would need to file an Affidavit of Indigency. Under this emergency, the court no longer requires an Affidavit of Indigency, But they may ask for proof later on in your case. If the proof is not enough they will charge you for the fees you did not have to pay.

For Emergency Closures Call 1-855-MA COURT (855-622-6878) or see the courts' web page Courthouse closures due to COVID-19.

Follow on Twitter @macourtclosings -- The court uses Twitter for one-way only communication.

Federal court

U.S. District Court: See the latest information on their website.

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