On June 24, 2020, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) issued an order further staying certain hearings and trials and limiting access to courthouses until at least July 13, 2020. The order affirms 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.”
Appeal periods on local permits will begin to run on July 1, 2020. Note that state permit appeal periods are tolled until 45 days after the state of emergency ends under the governor’s March 26, 2020 order. That order remains in effect at this time. The key provisions of the SJC’s new order are:
- Statutes of limitations are 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 July 13, 2020. The lower courts will list categories of non-emergency matters that they won’t handle, and list matters that they will hear in person as of July 13 and at a second reopening phase beginning August 10, 2020. Courts will hold all other hearings via telephone and/or videoconference unless an in-person hearing is necessary. Courts will also provide alternative filing instructions, including drop boxes at certain courthouses for in-person filings.
- Civil jury trials scheduled to start between March 14 and September 4, 2020 are still 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 13, 2020 unless, in the trial judge’s discretion, the trial can be held virtually.
Each lower court has issued and will continue to update individual orders regarding the scope of its operations after the courthouses reopen to the public on July 13, 2020, and post them here.