Massachusetts Judicial System
Massachusetts has a three-tier court system and a two-tier appellate system. The highest court of Massachusetts is the Supreme Judicial Court, which was established by the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780. Lower courts are established by the legislature; there are the Appeals Court, an intermediate appellate court, and the Trial Court. The Trial Court has seven departments including Boston Municipal Court, District Court, Housing Court, Juvenile Court, Land Court, Probate and Family Court, and Superior Court.
· Sources: The Massachusetts Constitution, General Laws of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure, Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rules of Appellate Procedure, and the Rules of the Supreme Judicial Court.
The following information will help you to find Massachusetts cases relating to procedural issues:
Case Reporters (in Print)
Supreme Judicial Court:
o Massachusetts Reports (official)
o North Eastern Reporter & Massachusetts Decisions
o Massachusetts Appeals Court Reports (official)
o North Eastern Reporter & Massachusetts Decisions
Trials Courts (The Appellate Divisions of the District court and the Boston Municipal court Departments):
o Reports of Massachusetts Appellate Division (1936-1950; 1980-date)
o Massachusetts Reports Supplement (1980-1983)
o Massachusetts Appellate Decisions (1941-1977)
o Appellate Division Advance Sheets (1975-1979)
Westlaw (Mass. State Trial Court Orders from 2001) , Lexis (Mass. Superior Court Cases from 1993, MA District Court, Appellate Division Cases from 1990, Massachusetts Land Court from 1993), Lois Law, VersusLaw, and Casemaker.
o Office of Reporter of Decisions: http://www.massreports.com/
- The official web site of the office of the Reporter of Decisions of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) and the Appeals Court. This web site contains slip opinions, Opinion Archive (2001-), unpublished decisions, and Advance Sheets— (1) the opinions of the two appellate courts with head; (2) the SJC orders; (3) Rule 1:28 decisions; and (4) the amendments to the Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure, Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rules of Appellate Procedure, and the Rules of the Supreme Judicial Court. Advance Sheets are available to subscribers only. You can search decisions by release date, parties, docket number, and key words with Boolean connectors.
Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure are available in print, in subscription databases such as Westlaw, Lexis and Bloomberg, and on internet websites free of charge.
Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure freely available at:
- Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts: http://massreports.com/courtrules/default.aspx
- This website also provides Rules of Appellate Procedure, Rules of Criminal Procedure, and Rules of the Supreme Judicial Court.
- Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries: http://www.lawlib.state.ma.us/source/mass/rules/civil/index.html
- This website is the most useful free portal and database for Massachusetts law research. It provides links, .pdf, and .text documents of Mass. General Laws, regulations (CMR), cases, court rules and fees, Massachusetts courts, executive orders, state agency opinions, city and town bylaws, etc. You can search for laws by subject and by source.
Massachusetts Law Research Guides
The following research guides contain sections devoted to Massachusetts procedural rules:
- Mary Ann Neary et al., Handbook of Legal Research in Massachusetts (2009).
- E. Joan Blum, Massachusetts Legal Research (2010).
- Massachusetts Practice Guide (“Mass. Practice”) in print (also available on CD-ROM and on Westlaw).
- This multi-volume set includes commentary on the law, citations to authority, forms, etc. In order to find pertinent sections, use the table of contents at the front of each volume or the general index at the end of the set, or use the index and tables located at the end of each subject title. Mass. Practice is updated with pocket parts and supplemental pamphlet.
Law Reviews and Law Journals
The following Law Reviews and Law Journals will be useful to find the articles on cutting-edge issues relating to Massachusetts Procedural rules : Northeastern University Law Journal, Boston College Law Review, Boston University Law Review, Harvard Law Review, New England Law Review, Suffolk University Law Review, Western New England Law Review, etc.
- Massachusetts Law Review (http://www.massbar.org/publications/massachusetts-law-review)
- Boston Bar Journal (http://www.bostonbar.org/pub/bbj/)
Current Awareness: Legal Newspapers
- Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly: http://masslawyersweekly.com/ (also available on Westlaw)
- Need to subscribe. Reports decisions issued by all the state and federal courts in Massachusetts including the Supreme Judicial Court, the Appeals Court, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals as well as rulings from state and federal trial courts in Massachusetts and state agencies, changes to court rules, verdict & settlement reports, bar-discipline notices, etc. The Archives goes back to 1993.
- Also look at Continuing Legal Education materials, published by Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) (also available on Westlaw), Massachusetts Bar Association, Boston Bar Association, etc.