Massachusetts Case Law
The Massachusetts state court system is divided into three levels. The highest court in Massachusetts is the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, which consists of seven judges. The Supreme Judicial Court reviews appeals of decisions by the Massachusetts Appeals Court. It also reviews appeals of decisions by trial courts in limited situations. Decisions by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court are final unless the U.S. Supreme Court agrees to review an appeal of a decision.
The middle level of the Massachusetts state court system is the Massachusetts Appeals Court, which contains 25 judges. The Appeals Court reviews appeals of decisions by trial courts and by state administrative agencies. Most appeals of decisions by trial courts must pass through the Appeals Court before reaching the Supreme Judicial Court.
The lowest level of the Massachusetts state court system consists primarily of the Massachusetts Superior Courts, the Massachusetts District Courts, and the Boston Municipal Courts. The Superior Courts are trial courts with general jurisdiction over civil and criminal cases. However, they do not review appeals of decisions by other trial courts. The jurisdiction of the District Courts is limited to certain types of cases. These include most criminal cases and civil matters with less than $25,000 at issue. The Boston Municipal Courts have general jurisdiction in civil cases and concurrent jurisdiction with the Superior Courts in most criminal cases.
Massachusetts also has certain courts that handle specific types of cases. These include the Massachusetts Housing Courts, the Massachusetts Land Courts, the Massachusetts Juvenile Courts, and the Massachusetts Probate and Family Courts. The Housing Courts review cases involving residential property, such as evictions, consumer rights, and housing discrimination. The Land Courts hold jurisdiction over the registration of property titles and related disputes. The Juvenile Courts review cases related to adoptions, juvenile delinquency, and the safety of children. The Probate and Family Courts review cases related to divorce, child custody, child support, and other domestic matters.Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Decisions