SJC Issues Order Restricting Court Appearances to Emergency Matters until May 4

In light of the ongoing and urgent public health concerns regarding the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, theSupreme Ju­dicial Court (SJC) on April 1 issued an orderthat con­tinues to restrict the number of people coming to Massa­chusetts state courthouses through May 4.

Effective April 6, 2020, the new order repeals and replaces two earlier court orders; the Order Regarding Empanelment Of Juries, is­sued by the court on March 13, 2020, and the Order Limiting In-Person Appear­ances In State Courthous­es To Emergency Matters That Cannot Be Resolved Through A Videoconfer­ence Or Telephonic Hear­ing, issued by the court on March 17, 2020.

All trials, whether jury or bench, in both criminal and civil cases, scheduled to be­gin in Massachusetts state courts on or before May 1, 2020, are continued to a date no earlier than May 4, 2020, unless the trial is a bench trial in a civil mat­ter and may be conducted otherwise than in-person by agreement of the parties and of the court.

As a result of the SJC order, courthouses will con­tinue to be closed to the pub­lic except to conduct emer­gency hearingsthat cannot be resolved virtually (i.e., by telephone, videoconfer­ence, email, or comparable means, or through the elec­tronic filing system) until at least May 4, 2020. All court clerks’, registers’, and recorder’s offices shall continue to conduct court business –to accept the fil­ing of pleadings and other documents in emergency matters, to schedule and facilitate hearings in emer­gency matters, to issue or­ders in emergency matters, to answer questions from attorneys, litigants, and the general public, and to con­duct other necessary busi­ness of the respective court. All such business will be conducted virtually, except when the filing of pleadings and other documents in emergency matters cannot be accomplished virtually.

The Trial Court an­nounced the April 2, 2020 launch of a Help Line for non-emergency mat­ters that the public can call to ask general ques­tions about their civil and criminal cases and help callers navigate the court system. The Help Line will be staffedfrom8:30 a.m. to 4:30p.m., Mon­day throughFriday, and can be reached by calling 833-91COURT.

Full lists of emergency matters identified in Stand­ing Orders for each depart­ment of the Trial Court, as well as updates regarding the court’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, are available on the court’s website.

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