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HOW DO I SEARCH FOR MASSACHUSETTS COURT RECORDS?

Massachusetts court records are public records and are accessible to citizens on request in line with the Massachusetts Public Information Act. These records are obtainable from different courts within the state's judicial system. Requestors will be able to access most court records except the records that have been expunged or sealed by court orders or a statute of law. Official court records are kept in paper and electronic formats. To obtain a court record, citizens may:

  • Visit the local courthouse to view or copy the paper copies of the court records
  • Visit the local courthouse to use the public access terminal to view electronic copies of available court records
  • Access the website of the courthouse in question to view electronic case information of available court record

A requestor may also be able to view electronic court records from public terminal computers available at Registry of Deeds offices in various counties. To determine the address of a local courthouse, use the courthouse locator on the Massachusetts Government website. Copying available court records may cost a nominal fee depending on the volume of the request.

HOW TO GET MASSACHUSETTS COURT RECORDS ONLINE FOR FREE?

Obtaining actual court documents for free is not feasible. Nonetheless, the public can obtain court records for negligible fees or access electronic copies of these court records online. For courthouses that provide online access, electronic versions of court records may be remotely accessed from their websites, or portals. Where the local courthouse does not provide this service or a paper copy is required by the requestor, a visit to the local courthouse will be required to obtain records.

Trial court cases can be accessed in person at the state courthouses through the eAccess application on designated public access computers at the District, Boston Municipal, Probate and Family, Superior, Housing Courts, Land Courts, and County Registry of Deeds locations across the state.

The eAccess application allows users to search case information by name, case type, and case number. However, the application does not allow users to view case documents. To view case documents, visit the Clerk, Register, and Recorder's Offices.

Some trial court cases can be accessed online at the Massachusetts Courts website. To perform a search, citizens will be required to provide relevant information such as:

  • Court department
  • Court division
  • Name
  • Case type
  • Case number
  • Ticket/Citation number (for Boston Municipal and District Court cases)

Most criminal cases can only be searched by docket number.

To view court records from the appellate courts of Massachusetts, visit the public case-search page of the Massachusetts Appellate Courts. First name and last name of a party involved, or docket number are required to conduct a search. The public may also be able to view old family and probate court records from the online archive available on the Massachusetts Courts website.

Court records are considered open to the public and are usually accessible through government sources, though they may also be accessed through third-party websites. These websites offer an easier method in most cases, as they are not limited by geographical area, or by limitations in search engine technology. They can often serve as a starting point when looking for a specific record, or multiple records. Interested parties must usually provide:

  • The name of the person listed in the record. This may not apply to records on juveniles.
  • The assumed or known location of the person listed in the record. This will most often be a city, county, or state.

Because they are not government-sponsored, record availability on third party websites may vary when compared to government sources.

HOW DOES THE MASSACHUSETTS COURT SYSTEM WORK?

The Massachusetts court system consists of the Supreme Judicial Court, the Appeals Court, and the 7 Trial Court departments. The Executive Office of the Trial Court, the Massachusetts Probation Service, and the Office of Jury Commissioner are also counted as parts of the state's court system.

The appellate courts in Massachusetts are the Appeals Court and the Supreme Judicial Court; the Supreme Judicial Court is the state's highest court. The seven Trial Court departments in Massachusetts include:

  • Boston Municipal Court
  • District Court
  • Housing Court
  • Juvenile Court
  • Land Court
  • Probate and Family Court
  • Superior Court

A citizen's first contact with the Massachusetts Judicial System is likely to be in one of the seven trial courts in the commonwealth which has subject matter or geographic jurisdiction over the issue or parties concerned.

These courts are under the joint administration of the Executive Office of the Trial Court which is led by the Chief Justice of the Trial Courts. Judges in the Massachusetts court system are appointed by the Governor with the consent of the Governor's Council and may stay in office until the age of 70.

The Office of Jury Commissioner's core duty is to provide jurors to each of the state's Trial Jury and Grand Jury courts. These jurors are representatives of the communities from which they are chosen.

The Massachusetts Probation Service's objective is to help people who have gone through probation live a positive and law-abiding life thereafter by making rehabilitative tools available to them while on probation.

WHAT ARE MASSACHUSETTS TRIAL COURTS?

The trial courts are the Boston Municipal Court, District Court, Housing Court, Juvenile Court, Land Court, Probate and Family Court, and Superior Court.

The Boston Municipal court department handles civil and criminal matters in the city of Boston. It has eight court divisions located at Brighton, Central (downtown), Charlestown Dorchester, East Boston, Roxbury, South Boston, and West Roxbury. The Boston Municipal Court also reviews cases such as unemployment compensation appeals, and firearms license appeals. Thirty judges are serving the Boston Municipal Court department.

The District Courts are the public first judicial contact in Massachusetts, existing in 62 locations across the state. District courts handle small claims disputes with up to $7,000 and civil disputes with damages claim below $50,000. District courts hold preliminary hearings and reserves jurisdictions over criminal offenses including felonies punishable by a sentence up to 5 years, traffic violations, misdemeanors, and violations of city and town ordinances and by-laws.

Eviction matters, small claims disputes, personal injury cases, and property damage are issues falling within the authority of the Housing Court in Massachusetts. Other cases handled by this court include breach of contract, discrimination, and code enforcement actions. The court also hears appeals of local zoning board decisions that affect residential housing. Massachusetts Housing Court is served by 10 judges and organized into six divisions.

The Juvenile court has 11 divisions and 41 judges in over 40 locations in Massachusetts. The Juvenile Court has statewide jurisdictions over civil and criminal offenses involving children under 18 years of age with regards to:

  • Adoption
  • Guardianship
  • Youthful offenses
  • Delinquency cases

Foreclosures, mortgages, property matters, local planning boards, and zoning boards of appeals are cases within the jurisdiction of the Land Court in Massachusetts. The court has seven justices and supervises land registration as well as possessing administrative power over the registered land offices in each Registry of Deeds.

The Probate Court in Massachusetts has 14 divisions and has original jurisdictions over matters of divorce, paternity disputes, abuse prevention, parental rights issues, and child support. The Probate Court also handles cases involving conservatorships, change of name, wills, estates, and trusts.

There are 20 superior courts sitting in all 14 counties of Massachusetts with statewide general jurisdiction over civil and criminal cases. The court holds exclusive original jurisdiction on cases of first-degree murder and original jurisdiction on all other crimes. The court also holds original jurisdiction on civil matters with dispute claims over $50,000 and on labor disputes matter with claims for injunctive relief. Massachusetts Superior Courts have appellate jurisdiction over certain administrative proceedings. The court can convene medical malpractice tribunal and hold sittings for naturalization in any city or town.

WHATARE MASSACHUSETTS APPELLATE COURTS?

Massachusetts appellate courts are the Appeals Court and the Supreme Judicial Court. The Appeals Court is located at the John Adams Courthouse at Pemberton Square in Boston. This facility also houses the only Supreme Judicial Court in the state.

The Appeals Court is the state's intermediate appellate court and consists of a Chief Justice and 24 Associate Justices. Apart from its original jurisdiction to review the decisions of the Trial Courts, it also has the authority to hear appeals from three state agencies:

  • The Appellate Tax Board
  • The Industrial Accident Board
  • The Commonwealth Employment Relations Board.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is the highest appellate court in the state. The court consists of a Chief Justice and six Associate Justices. These seven justices handle appeals of criminal and civil cases between September and May. The Supreme Judicial Court also oversees the operations of the judiciary and courts. The court may give advisory opinions to the Governor and the legislature on request.

HOW MANY CASES DOES THE MASSACHUSETTS COURT SYSTEM HANDLE ANNUALLY?

Litigants and lawyers file between 800,000 and 900,000 cases in Massachusetts courts annually. The court statistics for the 2019 fiscal year revealed that 807,244 cases were filed in trial courts across the state. This total represents 306,802 criminal matters, 64,845 civil cases (regular), 77,367 civil motor vehicle infractions, 13,821 juvenile matters, 38,940 probate cases, and 74,327 domestic relations cases.

The Appeals Court recorded 903 civil panel entries and 855 criminal panel entries. A total of 1,758 cases were filed for disposition at the Appeals Court in the year. In the same fiscal year, the Supreme Judicial Court recorded 194 published opinions and decided a total of 195 appeals.

Massachusetts Trial Courts, Summary of Case Filings by Type: FY2015-2019

Case Type FY2015 FY2016 FY2017 FY2018 FY2019
Criminal Matters 308,955 313,393 297,502 303,026 306,802
Civil – Regular 79,993 74,331 76,688 74,982 64,845
Civil– Specialized Matters 251,225 225,568 239,113 224,170 202,284
CMVI Hearings 130,254 117,565 99,246 80,814 77,367
Other Hearings 20,274 20,288 18,183 16,017 12,847
Juvenile Matters 20,122 19,479 17,675 16,627 13,821
Probate 42,942 39,461 39,653 39,601 38,940
Guardianship 13,229 11,891 12,594 12,653 12,345
Child Welfare & Adoption 2,621 2,346 2,423 2,434 2,661
Domestic Relations 89,875 87,660 83,734 76,041 74,327
Appeals 928 775 396 468 1,005
TOTALS 960,418 912,757 887,207 846,833 807,244

Data provided by the Massachusetts Judicial Branch

Sources and types of Civil Appeals at Appeals Court: FY2015-2019

FY2015 FY2016 FY2017 FY2018 FY2019
Superior Court 531 487 434 497 520
Probate & Family Court 127 138 137 125 110
BMC/District Court 52 74 79 101 59
Juvenile Court 70 82 68 79 60
Land Court 48 62 61 55 52
Housing Court 49 43 46 32 50
Appellate Tax Board 14 20 6 8 22
Industrial Accident Review Board 15 25 23 7 6
Employment Relations 8 3 4 3 7
Appeals Court Single Justice 3 5 7 15 17
Gross Civil Panel Entries 918 939 865 922 903

Data provided by the Massachusetts Judicial Branch

Sources and Types of Criminal Appeals at Appeals Court: FY2015-2019

FY2015 FY2016 FY2017 FY2018 FY2019
Superior Court 455 386 468 455 492
BMC/District Court 493 387 351 333 347
Juvenile Court 14 27 26 16 14
Appeals Court Single Justice 0 0 3 2 2
Gross Criminal Panel Entries 962 801 849 806 855

Data provided by the Massachusetts Judicial Branch

Dispositions at Appeals Courts:FY2015-2019

FY2015 FY2016 FY2017 FY2018 FY2019
Total Panel Entries 1,880 1,740 1,714 1,728 1,758
Transferred to SJC 87 87 93 78 87
Dismissed / Settled / Withdrawn / Consolidated 469 460 517 469 455
Net Annual Entries 1324 1193 1104 1181 1216

Data provided by the Massachusetts Judicial Branch

Total Panel Decisions (Civil/Criminal) *Appeals Courts:FY2015-2019

FY2015 FY2016 FY2017 FY2018 FY2019
Total Panel Entries 1,360 1,337 1,443 1,154 1,064
(Civil/Criminal) * (651/709) (609/728) (709/734) (554/600) (553/511)
Published Opinions 162 202 192 157 175
Summary Dispositions 1,198 1,135 1,251 997 889

Data provided by the Massachusetts Judicial Branch

*Includes decisions disposing of cases that may have been consolidated

Supreme Judicial Court Full Bench Caseload Information for FY2014-FY2018

FY2014 FY2015 FY2016 FY2017 FY2018
Direct Entries 134 83 107 108 102
Direct Appellate Review Applications Allowed/Considered 42/98 40/100 53/126 48/122 44/110
Further Appellate Review Applications Allowed/Considered 24/786 26/697 39/847 19/795 15/726
Transferred by SJC on its motion from Review of Entire Appeals Court Caseload 28 44 30 42 33
Gross Entries 228 193 229 217 194
Dismissals 15 17 19 12 14
Net Entries 213 176 210 205 180

Data provided by the Massachusetts Judicial Branch

Supreme Judicial Court Dispositions for FY2014-2018

FY2014 FY2015 FY2016 FY2017 FY2018
Full Opinions 157 161 152 170 145
Rescripts 43 43 39 45 49
Total Opinions 200 195 191 215 194
Total Appeals Decided* 205 201 196 227 195

Data provided by the Massachusetts Judicial Branch

*Indicates the total number of appeals resolved by the Court's opinions

First names in Massachusetts