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  • Kathryn O'Leary, Esq.


After being closed for everything except dire emergencies for months, Massachusetts courts plan a soft reopening starting on July 13, 2020. This does not mean that litigants with matters scheduled in July, August, or even the next several months should physically go to the courthouse. Litigants are urged to contact the court in advance because as many appearances as possible will be conducted virtually even though courthouses are theoretically open.

In order to make court appearances as safe as possible, courthouses will be outfitted with Plexiglas enclosures among other things. It is possible that the reopening of certain courthouses will be delayed because of delays in obtaining and installing safety equipment. Courthouse staff has been working diligently on measures to eliminate the need to enter courthouses such as setting up virtual clerk's offices so that litigants and attorneys can ask questions and setting up systems for providing copies of documents not available through electronic dockets.

This process is going to be slow and gradual. All courts, both state and federal, are carefully trying to figure out how juries can be impaneled safely. There seems to be a consensus that trials by jury will not be feasible in the near future since keeping safe all of the people involved in jury trials is a daunting task. I personally believe that most sessions will be dedicated to the criminal docket after courts get up and running again.

It is likely that there will be a flood of new case filings in some courts in the near future. There is currently a moratorium on evictions, for example. Once it ends it is likely that many eviction actions will be filed. It is likely that it will take some time to get a court date for an eviction too. Increases in divorce and bankruptcy filings are also considered likely. Individuals who anticipate entering the court system are well advised to file as quickly as possible.

If you have a legal issue that is going to require court intervention you should contact me as soon as possible. I can help you position yourself as well as possible to keep the process as short as possible.

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