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209A Restraining Order hearings are public and recorded

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed October 2023

Courts should record all 209A hearings electronically. Find out how to get an audio recording.

Judges should never hold 209A hearings in their offices.

Judges should hear all 209A hearings in the courtroom, in public.

But judges can decide to hold your hearing privately. They can have your hearing at their "bench". The bench is the judge's desk at the front of the courtroom. Or, they can close the courtroom.

The guidelines say that judges can hold your hearing by the bench when there are sensitive issues like sexual assault or child abuse.

If you or the defendant need the judge to close the courtroom, you have to convince the judge you have a very good reason. You have to show that you or your family will be seriously harmed if the hearing is public. It is unusual for a judge to close the courtroom unless the restraining order is being requested on behalf of a child. The judge has to clearly explain the reasons they are closing the courtroom. 

All 209A hearings, public, bench, or closed courtroom should still be recorded.

See Section 3:04 of the 2021 Guidelines, page 52.

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