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State courthouses closed to most matters until June 1

The Supreme Judicial Court on April 27 extended the closure of state courthouses to non-emergency business that cannot be addressed virtually until at least June 1, and postponed jury trials in criminal and civil cases to no earlier than July 1.

The court’s April 27 order takes effect on May 4, the date until which courthouses are closed to non-emergency business under the court’s previous order governing matters during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the new order, courts will continue to be open to conduct court business, but courthouses will continue to be closed to the public, except where entry is required to address emergency matters that cannot be addressed virtually.

In addition to the postponement of jury trials, all bench trials 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 new order also extends various deadlines.

The SJC’s order directs Trial Court departments to identify categories of non-emergency matters that they will attempt to address virtually, where it is practicable to do so, and to provide clear guidance to the public and members of the bar regarding what those categories will be by posting periodic notices to the judiciary’s COVID-19 webpage.

The SJC and Appeals Court will continue to conduct oral arguments virtually in non-emergency matters.

All court clerks’, registers’ and recorders’ offices will continue to accept the filing of pleadings and other documents in emergency and identified non-emergency matters; to schedule and facilitate hearings; to issue orders; to answer questions from attorneys, litigants and the general public; and to conduct other necessary business of the respective court. All such business will be conducted virtually, except when the filing of pleadings and other documents in emergency matters cannot be accomplished virtually.