MA ACCESS TO JUSTICE COMMISSION UPDATE
April 30, 2020
Supreme Judicial Court Issues Updated Order
On April 27, 2020 the Supreme Judicial Court issued an updated order regarding the operation of Massachusetts state courts and courthouses during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The order is effective May 4, 2020. Under the new order, Courthouses will continue to be closed to the general public, except where entry is required to address emergency matters that cannot be addressed virtually until at least June 1, 2020. However, all courts of the Commonwealth will continue to be open to conduct court business. Additionally, jury trials in both criminal and civil cases in state courts are postponed to a date no earlier than July 1, 2020, and all bench trials, in both criminal and civil cases are postponed to a date no earlier than June 1, unless they may be conducted virtually by agreement of the parties and of the court. The updated order can be found here. The press release announcing the updated order is available in both Spanish and Portuguese.
Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission COVID-19 Task Force
The Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission COVID-19 Task Force continues to meet weekly with the goal of effectively collaborating and marshalling resources to assist people with their legal needs statewide. The Pro Bono Committee has surveyed legal aid organizations across the state to identify emerging legal needs during the pandemic and is now working with these organizations to develop projects in response to the needs that they identified. Once vetted, these will be on the massprobono.org portal; more on that in the coming weeks. The Communication/Materials Committee continues to identify materials that contain clear, accurate information about changes in the law and legal procedures and to provide feedback to make the court’s website as clear as possible. It also hosted an extremely helpful webinar on housing for community advocates on April 23rd. The Access to Courts Committee remains engaged in dialogue with the courts on issues in the areas of housing law, family law, and consumer debt that have arisen as a result of the pandemic. In addition, Suffolk Law School has continued to progress in adapting emergency court forms onto a mobile-friendly, fillable format.
Upcoming Commission Meeting
The next Access to Justice Commission Meeting is on May 14th, 2020 from 3-5 and will take place virtually. The meeting will focus on the efforts of the Commission’s COVID-19 Task Force. Please look out for more information on the upcoming meeting.