Massachusetts Court Records

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How Does the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Work?

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) is the highest court in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It is also referred to as the court of last resort in the state. The Supreme Judicial Court can decide to bypass the Appeals Court review and hear a case on “direct appellate review.” The court is the oldest appellate court in the Western Hemisphere’s continuous existence, as it was established in 1692. It was initially known as the Superior Court of Judicature, but the name was changed to Supreme Judicial Court by the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court functions under the oldest written constitution in the world.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s (SJC) jurisdiction allows it to hear appeals from civil and criminal cases. Apart from its appellate jurisdiction, the SJC is also responsible for the general management and administration of the judiciary and the bar. The SJC has the authority to formulate and approve rules for all state court operations, including superior courts, district courts, land courts, juvenile courts, and others. In some cases, the court may provide an advisory opinion, upon request, to the Governor and Legislature on diverse legal issues.

Furthermore, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court oversees the Massachusetts court system, including the discipline of judges. The court also has administrative responsibilities in various degrees, alongside with several affiliated agencies of the judicial branch, such as:

  • The Board of Bar Overseers
  • The Commission on Judicial Conduct
  • The Board of Bar Examiners
  • The Clients’ Security Board
  • The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation
  • The Massachusetts Mental Health Legal Advisors’ Committee
  • Correctional Legal Services, Inc.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court comprises seven justices that hear appeals on a wide range of criminal and civil cases between September and May. Of the seven justices, there is a Chief Justice and six Associate Justices appointed by the Governor with the Governor’s Council’s consent. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court holds Single Justice sessions each week throughout the year for specific motions on cases on trial or appeal, bail reviews, petitions for admission to the bar, bar discipline proceedings, and a variety of other statutory proceedings. The Associate Justices sit as Single Justices every month on a rotation schedule. Written SJC opinions are posted online.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court justices are chosen through gubernatorial appointment. For this, the Governor’s nominees must be endorsed by the executive council, also known as the Governor’s council. The members of the executive council are elected every two years.

As opposed to some other states, justices in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts do not have fixed terms. Instead, the judges serve lifetime terms after receiving approval. However, these justices may only remain in office until the compulsory retirement age of 70. At this age, the justices must retire.

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court justices must be under the age of 70 and must also be citizens and residents of the United States and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, respectively. In addition, all justices must be members of the state bar in good standing and must have at least 13 years of legal experience and training.

Persons seeking to obtain court records and dockets from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Appellate courts may use the public case search portal and input the search criteria. For instance, requestors may conduct a regular case search with the first name, last name, docket number, and court calender of the case of interest. Other searches that can be conducted through this search portal include:

  • Involved Party Search—The search criteria includes the first name, last name, year filed, case status, case category, and case type.
  • Docket Number Search - Search with the docket number of the case of interest.
  • Attorney Appearance Search - The search criteria include the first name (optional), last name, year filed, case status, case category, and case type.
  • Lower Court Judge Search - The search criteria include the last name, lower court, year filed, case status, case category, and case type.
  • Lower Court Search - The search criteria include the lower court, county, year filed, case status, case category, and case type.

The contact address of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is as follows:

John Adams Courthouse,

1 Pemberton Square, Suite 2500,

Boston, MA 02108

Supreme Judicial Court’s main number: (617) 557–1000

Supreme Judicial Court, Clerks’ Offices Emergency Number: (857) 275–8036Clerk’s Office Supreme Judicial Court, Clerk’s Office for the Commonwealth: (617) 557–1020

Supreme Judicial Court, Public Information Office: (617) 557–1114

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