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Massachusetts

These resources – like the public health crisis itself – are constantly evolving and are only current as to the date of publication. This page was last updated on September 14, 2020.

For more up-to-date information on the relief programs available in Massachusetts, we recommend that you visit the state's COVID-19 Updates and Information website, COVID-19 State of Emergency resources or MassTrac's list of bills related to the COVID-19 pandemic

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Description of Program and Relief

Continuances of State Court Trials and the Tolling of Statutes of Limitation and Court Deadlines

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) issued an order to reduce the number of people coming to Massachusetts state courthouses. The Order repeals and replaces the previous orders issued and is effective June 1, 2020:

In-person Emergency Matters Only. Until at least July 1, 2020, the Courts will be open to conduct court business, but courthouses will be closed to the general public, except where entry is required to address emergency matters that cannot be resolved virtually (i.e., by telephone, videoconference, email, or the electronic filing system). Each of the Trial Court departments has issued a Standing Order, specifying what constitutes an emergency matter in that particular court.

Continuances of Trials. All jury trials scheduled to commence in Massachusetts state courts between March 14, 2020 and September 4, 2020, are continued to a date no earlier than September 8, 2020. All bench trials in civil cases scheduled to commence in Massachusetts state courts between March 14, 2020 and June 30, 2020 are continued to a date no earlier than July 1, 2020, unless in the trial judge's discretion the trial may be conducted virtually. All bench trials in criminal cases scheduled to commence in Massachusetts state courts between March 14, 2020 and June 30, 2020 are continued to a date no earlier than July 1, 2020, unless the trial may be conducted virtually by agreement of the parties and the trial judge.

No New Grand Juries. No new grand jury shall be empaneled until September 8, 2020, unless so ordered by the SJC. Grand juries whose terms expire before the empanelment of a new grand jury shall be extended until the date of that new empanelment. No sitting grand jury shall be convened without the approval of the Superior Court Regional Administrative Justice (“RAJ”) who, after consultation with the Chief Justice of the Superior Court, shall set such conditions as may be necessary to minimize risk to members of the grand jury, court personnel, and witnesses. The RAJ or the Chief Justice of the Superior Court may consult with the Jury Commissioner regarding such conditions.

Tolling of the Statutes of Limitation. All statutes of limitation are tolled from March 17, 2020 through June 30, 2020 when the tolling period shall end and not be further extended unless there is a new surge in COVID-19 cases in the Commonwealth and the SJC determines that a new or extended period of tolling is needed. All criminal statutes of limitation are tolled from March 17, 2020, through August 31, 2020. The new date for the expiration of a statute of limitation is calculated as follows: determine how many days remained as of March 17, 2020, until the statute of limitation would have expired, and that same number of days will remain as of July 1, 2020 in civil cases and as of September 1, 2020 in criminal cases. For example, if fourteen (14) days remained as of March 17 before the statute of limitation would have expired in a civil case, then fourteen (14) days will continue to remain as of July 1, before the statute of limitation expires (i.e., July 15), and if fourteen (14) days remained as of March 17 before the statute of limitation would have expired in a criminal case, then fourteen (14) days will continue to remain as of September 1, before the statute of limitation expires (i.e., September 15).

Tolling Statutory and Court Deadlines. Unless otherwise ordered by the applicable court, all deadlines set forth in statutes or court rules, standing orders, tracking orders, guidelines, and case-specific scheduling orders that expired or will expire between March 17, 2020 and June 30, 2020, are tolled until July 1, 2020, when the tolling period shall end and not be further extended unless there is a new surge in COVID-19 cases in the Commonwealth and the SJC determines that a new or extended period of tolling is needed. New deadlines may be calculated under a formula provided here. Any deadline concerning the commencement of trial is tolled through September 7, 2020, unless a bench trial commences before that date. Probation termination dates are not tolled.

Government or Lead Agency

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

Eligibility Requirements/Restrictions

Not applicable

Application Deadlines (If Applicable)

Not applicable

List of Additional Information

The Court’s Order, which has additional details, may be found here.


© 2021 Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP. This does not constitute legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. In some jurisdictions, this publication may be considered attorney advertising. Past representations are no guarantee of future outcomes.

© 2021 Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP

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