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Update on Impact of COVID-19 on Courts in Massachusetts

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| Legal Advisory

Updated April 6, 2020

In the last several weeks there have been a barrage of orders from the Massachusetts state and federal courts addressing the impact of COVID-19 on pending cases here in the Commonwealth. We at Nutter continue to monitor developments as they arise and are prepared to guide our clients on how COVID-19 may be affecting their cases. While many proceedings are being held by videoconference or telephonically, we have summarized below some of the key restrictions on access to our courts that are now in place.

Massachusetts Trial Courts

  • All trials—in both criminal and civil cases—scheduled to begin between March 13 and 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 the court. A mistrial has been declared in any jury trial that had begun but which did not result in a verdict before March 17, 2020.
  • At least until May 4, 2020, the only in-person proceedings being held in Massachusetts state courthouses will be to address emergency matters that cannot be resolved through a videoconference or telephonic hearing.
  • It should be noted that the Supreme Judicial Court has tolled all statutes of limitation from March 17 through May 3, 2020. Moreover, all deadlines set forth in statutes or court rules, standing orders, or guidelines that would expire on or before May 4, 2020 have been tolled.
  • Separate orders have been issued for each trial court department. These orders are generally more restrictive.

Massachusetts Court of Appeals

  • All oral arguments scheduled for April 2020 are cancelled and those cases that were previously calendared for hearing in April have been deemed submitted on the briefs. In other words, a hearing will not be rescheduled in these cases. The Appeals Court anticipates that the oral arguments for its May session will be calendared and held by video or telephone conference.

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

  • The SJC will hear oral arguments by telephone until April 10, 2020. It is yet to be determined how the SJC will proceed with respect to calendared arguments after that date.  Oral arguments will be available as a live stream at: https://boston.suffolk.edu/sjc/.

United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts

  • Videoconferencing and telephone conferences are encouraged. It appears that some judges have begun to use Zoom’s videoconferencing services in, at least, civil matters.
  • All jury trials and all trial-specific deadlines in criminal matters scheduled to begin before May 29, 2020 have been continued until further notice.
  • Criminal proceedings, except those where personal liberty and/or public safety issues are immediately implicated, have been continued for 60 days.
  • Certain criminal proceedings may be conducted by videoconferencing or, if necessary, telephone conferencing.

United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

  • All oral arguments scheduled for April 6 through April 9, 2020 have been cancelled. Further information regarding rescheduling of these arguments will be done on a case-by-case basis.
  • Generally, the deadline for any non-emergency filing (e.g., briefs, appendices, petitions for rehearing) due to be filed between March 26 and April 24, 2020 has been extended by 30 days.

This advisory was prepared by Heather Repicky and Haley Grissom in the Litigation Department. For more information, please contact Heather, Haley, or your Nutter attorney at 617.439.2000.

This update is for information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any specific facts or circumstances. Under the rules of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, this material may be considered as advertising.

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