How Do Court Closings Impact My Business Matters in the System?

Photo of Bill Glahn
Wilbur A. Glahn, III
Director, Litigation Department
March 18, 2020

The state and federal courts in New Hampshire and Massachusetts are closed, but all of these courts allow for electronic filing of pleadings (with a few exceptions).  As a result, we will be able to handle all litigation filings despite the closing of the Courts.  We will be closely monitoring all pending matters to assure compliance with all deadlines and will update clients on any changes in the orders below.

New Hampshire Courts

The New Hampshire Supreme Court has suspended all in-person proceedings (except in certain criminal, domestic violence and child protection proceedings) through April 6th.  (There are exceptions for emergency matters to be handled at the discretion of the Court.)  Although electronic filing is permitted, all existing deadlines set by court rules or orders, by statutes, ordinances or administrative rules have been extended to April 7th.  In short, any deadline between March 16th and April 6th is now extended to April 7th.  All deadlines (including statutes of limitation) that are not set to expire during that period are not extended.  Electronic conferences may go forward at the Court’s discretion.

The United States District Court for the District of New Hampshire has postponed all civil and criminal jury trials and grand jury proceedings scheduled to begin before May 1st without specifying a date.  Bench trials and other hearings may go forward at the discretion of the individual judge, however, given the state of emergency and the admonition against gathering in groups of more than ten, it seems unlikely that any will be held.  Unlike the State courts, the federal court has not extended any filing deadlines and any deadlines that will run can be met electronically.

Massachusetts Courts

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has closed all courts to in-person proceedings through April 6th and continued all trials scheduled before April 17th to a date no earlier than April 21st.  The order requires all judges to issue orders in their cases consistent with the SJC’s Order.  The SJC’s Order also extends all deadlines in pending cases through April 21st, and all statutes of limitations that would expire between March 16th and April 21st are also extended to April 21st.  Deadlines that apply or would expire after the April 21st are not extended.

The United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts has extended all civil and criminal jury trials that were scheduled to begin before April 27th.  No new dates have been set for those trials.  New trial dates, and all deadlines in civil cases are left to the discretion of the individual federal judges.