The Supreme Judicial Court today issued new rules that will continue to slow the wheels of trial justice in Massachusetts through summertime.
Under an order by the court, jury trials in both criminal and civil cases will be pushed back to at least July 1. Bench trials, in which a judge, rather than a jury, decides on the evidence, are postponed until at least June 1, unless both sides and the judge agree to hold the trials via an online conferencing system.
Also, all of the state's courthouses will remain shut to the general public through June 1, "except where entry is required to address emergency matters that cannot be addressed virtually (by telephone, videoconference, email, or comparable means, or through the electronic filing system)."
The state's two appeals courts, the Massachusetts Appeals Court and the SJC itself, will continue to hold scheduled oral arguments, but online only.
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 and identified non-emergency matters, to schedule and facilitate hearings, to issue orders, 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.