Real Estate Development in the Time of Coronavirus: Massachusetts – Update 5/27/20

Supreme Judicial Court Issues Order Signaling End of Deadline and Statute of Limitations Extensions

On May 26, 2020, the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) issued an order further staying certain hearings and trials and limiting access to courthouses until at least July 1, 2020. The order states that there will be no further extension of deadlines or statutes of limitations beyond June 30, 2020, “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.” For those waiting for an appeal period to run on a local permit before proceeding with their development, the likely end to these extensions should be welcome news. The key provisions of the SJC’s new order are: 

  • Statutes of limitations are now tolled from March 17 through June 30, 2020. All other deadlines set forth in statutes, court rules, standing orders, tracking orders, or guidelines that expired or will expire between March 16 and June 30, 2020 are tolled until July 1, 2020 (unless otherwise ordered by the particular court).  For deadlines that began to run prior to March 16, 2020, the order provides examples of how to calculate the time that will remain as of July 1, 2020.
  • Courthouses remain closed to the public until at least July 1, 2020, but the lower courts are directed to continue to expand the non-emergency matters they are handling. Courts will continue to hold hearings via telephone and/or videoconference unless an in-person hearing is necessary.
  • Civil jury trials scheduled to start between March 14 and September 4, 2020 are continued to a date no earlier than September 8, 2020. Civil bench trials scheduled to start between March 14 and June 30, 2020 are continued to a date no earlier than July 1, 2020 unless, in the trial judge’s discretion, the trial can be held virtually.

Each lower court will continue to issue individual orders regarding the scope of their operations during the COVID-19 pandemic and post them here. We expect these courts to list categories of non-emergency matters they will hear in new orders linked on that page over the next few days.

DALA Is Accepting In-person Filings Again

The Division of Administrative Law Appeals continues to accept electronic filings, and is once again allowing in-person filing, provided protocols to limit the spread of COVID-19 are followed. A link to the DALA page setting out COVID-19 procedures is here.

Governor Baker’s guidance regarding executive branch office operations under the state of emergency was not extended beyond May 18, 2020. It is expected that state agencies and offices will begin to slowly increase in-office operations, but hopefully electronic submission of materials will continue to be an option going forward.

For questions on these orders, or any other real estate development issue, please contact Dan BaileyPaula DevereauxDon PintoGareth Orsmond, or Joel Quick.