Massachusetts State Court System

  • Boston Municipal Court:The Boston Municipal court is a court of limited jurisdiction. It handles civil cases, including tort action, where the likely recovery amount does not exceed $25,000.
  • District Court: This Court conducts jury and jury-waived civil trials in cases where the recovery is not likely to exceed $25,000.
  • Superior Court: The Superior Court is a court of general jurisdiction. It has jurisdiction over civil cases with an amount in controversy over $25,000.
  • Court of Appeals:The Court of Appeals is the court of general appellate jurisdiction. It hears most cases appealed from the lower courts.
  • Supreme Judicial Court: The Supreme Court is the highest court and court of last resort in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

*Some of the courts in the Massachusetts Court System also have jurisdiction over other proceedings which are not covered here.

Pleadings

In the beginning stages of a lawsuit legal documents called pleadings are filed. To initiate the lawsuit, the plaintiff files a pleading called a Complaint which sets forth one or more causes of action against the defendant(s) named in the Complaint. After the Plaintiff files the Complaint and properly serves the Complaint on the Defendant(s), the Defendant(s) then have 20 days from the date of service to file a pleading called an Answer. The Defendant(s)’ Answer will respond to each of the causes of action in the Plaintiff’s Complaint and set forth any defenses, cross claims and/or counter claims the Defendant(s) will raise.

Discovery

After all parties to the lawsuit have filed pleadings, the case then proceeds to Discovery. Essentially, the discovery process is a fact-finding and investigative endeavor in which each party gathers information and evidence from opposing parties and/or non-party witnesses. While the discovery process includes a variety of other mechanisms used to gather information, it will generally consist of the following:

  • Written Discovery: is generally used at the start of discovery and comes in two basic forms:

    • Interrogatories – Formal questions and/or requests for information served on one party by an opposing party. The party served with interrogatories must provide written responses to each of the interrogatories or respond with an objection to the interrogatory.
    • Requests for Production of Documents – Often served with a set of interrogatories, requests for production of documents are formal requests for certain documentation relevant to the claims and defenses raised in the pleadings.
  • Depositions: In a deposition, either a party to the lawsuit or a non-party witness will provide oral testimony under oath and in the presence of a court reporter who makes a written record of everything said during the deposition.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

The Massachusetts Trial Court offers court-connected ADR as an alternative to litigation in every Trial Court Department. Alternative Dispute Resolution is a generic term used to describe certain processes in which an impartial third person assists parties in settling a case without the need for trial

The Superior Court offers in-house mediation in cases involving self-represented litigants and in other cases at the request of counsel or by order of a judge at no cost to the parties.

Trial

If the parties have not reached a settlement through mediation or otherwise, at the conclusion of discovery, the case then proceeds to trial. Depending on the complexity of the case, a trial can take as little as a single day or as long as several weeks to complete. At the conclusion of a typical civil trial, the jury will return a verdict for the plaintiff and award money damages to the plaintiff or the jury will return a verdict for the defendant finding that the defendant was not at fault.

Motions and Appeals

After a final judgment is entered, the party wishing to appeal must file a notice of appeal with the clerk of the court within 30 days after the entry of the final judgment.

Recovery

A judgment rendered in Massachusetts is valid for 20 years.

DISCLAIMER:

The law firm of Walker Morgan is located at 135 E Main St., Lexington, SC 29072. All lawyers at Walker Morgan are licensed to practice law in the State of South Carolina. Should you wish to retain our firm for legal representation regarding a potential case in any other jurisdiction we are required to associate local counsel in that foreign jurisdiction and seek permission from a court of the foreign jurisdiction to temporarily engage in the practice of law therein for purposes of pursuing your potential claim only.

By offering the following information the lawyers at Walker Morgan are not offering legal advice or legal guidance. The lawyers at Walker Morgan are not licensed to practice law in Massachusetts. Should you have a question/concern specific to Massachusetts law, please contact an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of Massachusetts.