Trials Resume in the Commonwealth

Update: Trials to Resume in District Court

The SJC has announced that trials may resume as early as October

The trial courts continue the phased reopening with new directives published by the Supreme Judical Court. On September 17, 2020 the SJC released its Fourth Updated Order Regarding Court Operations Under The Exigent Circumstances Created By The COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Pandemic. Click here to read a summary of the new order. Among other updates, is new information regarding jury trials, which have been on hold in the Commonwealth since March 2020.

“On or after October 23, 2020, courts will commence Phase I of the gradual resumption of jury trials.”

Working in close consultation with the Jury Management Advisory Committee (JMAC) which has issued an extensive report on the resumption of jury trials in Massachusetts, the trial courts will begin holding trials in Phases with the public’s safety in mind. Phase I will consist of a limited number of six-person jury trials. These in-person trials will only be conducted in specific locations, yet to be determined. Further, only one trial per location will be conducted at any given time. Case types that will be heard, and the specific cases, are both yet to be determined. The scheduling process is going to be collaborative, among JMAC and court leaders.

Criminal cases in the Superior Court, which would be tried by juries of twelve, may be tried by juries of six, only with the consent of the defendant(s). Each defendant will be limited to four peremptory challenges, and as many challenges as are entitled the defendant(s) shall be allowed to the Commonwealth.

As for criminal cases in the District Courts, all defendants in a matter shall be entitled to two peremptory challenges each, and the Commonwealth will be allowed the total number of peremptory challenges given to the defendants.

Criminal bench trials will continue to be conducted in person unless the parties and trial judge agree to conduct the trial virtually. Most other court matters may be conducted virtually, though this will differ from court to court, and you should check with your attorney to know whether your presence is required.

Following an evaluation of Phase I by JMAC, the SJC in consultation with JMAC, will release further direction regarding Phase II of the resumption of jury trials. It is anticipated that Phase II will begin in February 2021. This date is subject to change as the Commonwealth continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

At The Law Offices of Joseph D. Bernard, we know that the pandemic has caused an upheaval in the courts and in people’s lives. We will continue to update our clients with new information as it is made available.