On April 27, 2020, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued a new order governing state court operations during the COVID-19 crisis. The order is effective May 4, and it repeals and replaces the Court’s prior orders.
Five major takeaways from the order (available here) are as follows:
- The Courts Are Virtually Open. Until at least June 1, the courts will be closed to the general public except for emergency matters that cannot be conducted remotely. The courts otherwise continue to be open to conduct business virtually, telephonically, or on the papers. Each trial and appellate court will issue an order further detailing how it will operate. The clerk’s, register’s, and recorder’s offices are all open and accepting filings.
- Trials are Postponed. Jury trials are postponed until at least July 1, and bench trials are postponed until at least June 1.
- All Deadlines Are Extended. All deadlines set forth in statutes or court rules, standing orders, tracking orders, or guidelines that expired or will expire between March 16, 2020, and June 1, 2020, are tolled until June 1, 2020, and the new deadline in each instance is calculated as follows: determine how many days remained after March 16, 2020, until the original deadline, and that same number of days will remain as of June 1, 2020, until the new deadline.
- Statutes of Limitations are Tolled. All statute of limitations are tolled from March 17 through May 31, 2020. Regardless, it remains prudent to file before a statute of limitations is originally set to expire.
- ADR is Available. More than ever, the flexibility of alternative dispute resolution may be useful to resolve disputes. Neutrals are coming up with creative ways to get parties in the same room virtually. We can help you evaluate whether mediation or arbitration is a good option.
Things continue to change rapidly as the pandemic unfolds. Let us help you navigate the courts and ADR options to solve your business disputes.
Author: Laura Lee Mittelman
Laura Lee Mittelman is an associate in the Business Litigation & Dispute Resolution practice group. Laura’s practice concentrates on resolving complex business disputes. She advocates for her clients—which range from Fortune 500 entities to individuals—in pre-litigation, litigation, and alternative dispute resolution forums. Laura’s goal is to achieve the best result for her client at the earliest point possible. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617.345.3260.