Judiciary of Massachusetts
The judiciary of Massachusetts is the branch of the government of Massachusetts that interprets and applies the law of Massachusetts, ensures equal justice under law, and provides a mechanism for dispute resolution. The judicial power in Massachusetts is reposed in the Supreme Judicial Court, which superintends the entire system of courts.
The Massachusetts court system consists of the Supreme Judicial Court, the Appeals Court, and the seven Trial Court departments.
Supreme Judicial Court
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is the court of last resort. An appeal from a conviction of first degree murder goes directly to the Supreme Judicial Court. The Supreme Judicial Court can also elect to bypass review by the Appeals Court and hear a case on "direct appellate review."
The seven Trial Court departments are the:
- Superior Court
- District Court
- Land Court
- Housing Court
- Juvenile Court
- Probate and Family Court
- Boston Municipal Court
In the District Court Department, appeals in certain civil cases are made first to the Appellate Division of the District Court before being eligible for appeal to the Appeals Court. After a decision by the Appeals Court, parties may seek "further appellate review" by requesting review by the Supreme Judicial Court.
Other administrative tribunals include the:
- Massachusetts Appellate Tax Board
- Massachusetts Division of Labor Relations
- Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents
- Massachusetts Labor Relations Commission
In addition to appellate functions, the Supreme Judicial Court is responsible for the general superintendence of the judiciary and of the bar, makes or approves rules for the operations of all the courts, and in certain instances, provides advisory opinions, upon request, to the Governor and Legislature on various legal issues. The Supreme Judicial Court also oversees several affiliated agencies of the judicial branch, including the Board of Bar Overseers, the Board of Bar Examiners, the Clients' Security Board, the Massachusetts Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee, and Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services. The Massachusetts Court Administrator, subject to the superintendence power of the Supreme Judicial Court and in consultation with the Massachusetts Chief Justice of the Trial Court, has general superintendence of the administration of the Trial Court.
The Massachusetts Executive Office of the Trial Court was established to facilitate communication and enable joint leadership of the Trial Court and comprises an Office of Court Management and an Office of the Chief Justice of the Trial Court. The Massachusetts Office of the Commissioner of Probation supervises the Massachusetts Probation Service. The Massachusetts Office of Jury Commissioner oversees the selection and management of all jurors in the Commonwealth until they appear at the courthouse.
MassCourts is the case management system used by the courts. The decisions of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, the Massachusetts Appeals Court, and the Appellate Divisions of the Massachusetts District Court and the Boston Municipal Court departments, which are published in the Massachusetts Reports, Massachusetts Appeals Court Reports, and Massachusetts Appellate Division Reports, respectively. The Massachusetts Law Reporter publishes decisions from the Massachusetts Superior Court.
The Governor, with the consent of the elected Governor's Council, appoints all Massachusetts judges. Judges hold office until the mandatory retirement age of seventy.
Before 1978, all trial courts except the Land Court were county or local courts funded through the counties. The Massachusetts Trial Court was created by Chapter 478 of the Acts of 1978 that reorganized the courts into seven Trial Court Departments. Administrative Justices became responsible for the administration of each court department and as part of the overhaul, all judges became state judges with the same salary and benefits.
A second court reorganization in 1992 greatly expanded the Juvenile Court Department and ended trial de novo in the District Court Department. It also replaced Administrative Justices with Chief Justices and created a central office headed by the Chief Justice for Administration and Management.
- Wallack, Todd (12 April 2015). "Massachusetts courts' long-delayed computer system may leave public out". The Boston Globe.
- "Civil Procedure Research Guide". Northeastern University School of Law. Retrieved 11 June 2014.
- "Massachusetts Law". Massachusetts. Retrieved 12 June 2014.
- "The Massachusetts Law Reporter". Connecticut Law Book Company. Retrieved 11 June 2014.
- "The Massachusetts Court System Intro". mass.gov. Archived from the original on August 8, 2010. Retrieved 2010-12-16.
- "The Massachusetts Court System Structure". mass.gov. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-11-10. Retrieved 2010-12-16.
- "Call it Big Data's Big Dig — $75m, 19 years, still not done; Long overdue, state courts' new computer system crimps public access", Boston Globe, April 12, 2015 (discusses "MassCourts" computer system, "intended to link more than 100 courthouses across the Commonwealth, for the first time allowing court officials to look up information")