MA Access to Justice Commission Update – May 28

MA ACCESS TO JUSTICE COMMISSION UPDATE
May 28, 2020

THE SUPREME JUDICIAL COURT MAY 26TH ORDER

On May 26, 2020 the Supreme Judicial Court issued an order regarding the operation of Massachusetts state courts and courthouses in June during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The order will go into effect June 1, 2020, and replace the current order which went into effect May 4, 2020. A comparison of the key provisions of the two orders is available on the court’s website.

Under the new order, all the courts of the Commonwealth will continue to be open to conduct emergency and non-emergency business, in both civil and criminal cases, but court buildings will remain physically closed to the general public. All court business will be conducted virtually (by telephone, videoconference, email, or comparable means, or through the electronic filing system) until at least July 1. Exceptions will continue to be made for emergency matters that cannot be addressed virtually.

Jury trials in both criminal and civil cases in state courts are postponed to a date no earlier than September 8, 2020. Civil bench trials are postponed until at least July 1, unless a judge determines that a bench trial may be conducted virtually. Criminal bench trials are postponed until at least July 1, unless the parties and judge agree that the trial may be conducted virtually.

Under the prior updated order, each Trial Court department identified categories of non-emergency matters that it is addressing virtually. Under the new order, each department will identify any additional categories of non-emergency matters that it will attempt to address. It also directs departments to provide guidance to the public on how filings can be accomplished. This information will be posted on the courts’ COVID-19 webpage.

The new order also ends the tolling of civil statutes of limitations on June 30, 2020. The tolling of criminal statutes of limitation will end on September 1, 2020. The tolling of other deadlines generally will end on July 1, 2020.

You can read the entire order here.

UPCOMING PROGRAMS

Virtual Town Hall – City of Chelsea

On Friday, May 29, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., the Massachusetts Trial Court, the City of Chelsea, and the Chelsea Collaborative will host a virtual town hall meeting to address concerns the Chelsea community has regarding access to the courts and to resources during the COVID-19 pandemic. The meeting will start with opening remarks by Trial Court Chief Justice Paula Carey, followed by a panel presentation and public question and answer session. The session will include both Spanish and English speakers and be livestreamed online at: www.facebook.com/thechelseacollaborative.   You can register here.

Webinar: “Libraries Prepare to Answer Civil Legal Questions in Times of Crisis”

Register for the free June 11 webinar, “Libraries Prepare to Answer Civil Legal Questions in Times of Crisis,” which will overview common civil legal issues that arise in times of crisis and provide guidance for how libraries to respond to patron questions.

With the economy staggering, unemployment soaring to unprecedented heights, and families reeling from weeks of confinement and uncertainty, people are turning to their libraries for help. Many of the issues people are struggling with involve civil legal information; questions related to unemployment, debt/money issues, foreclosures and evictions, or family stressors are all on the rise due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The webinar is June 11 with presentations by Jenny Silbiger, State Law Librarian, Access to Justice Coordinator, Hawaii Supreme Court Law Library; and Joseph Lawson, Deputy Director, Harris County Law Library (TX). Register on WebJunction.

For more on WebJunction and Legal Services Corporation’s training initiative Improving Access to Civil Legal through Public Libraries see oc.lc/legal-justice.