How to Obtain Court Records in Massachusetts
Massachusetts’ trial courts, known as district courts, are located in each of the 14 counties in the state and include many specialized divisions. These specialized divisions include housing, land, family/probate, juvenile, and Boston Municipal courts. Appeals of district court decisions go first to an appellate division of district court before being heard by the state appeals court or supreme judicial court.
Superior court is also at this level, having jurisdiction over first degree murder cases, medical malpractice, and civil lawsuits with stakes of $25,000 or more. Superior court also handles appeals of some administrative agencies like labor relations, industrial accidents, and the appellate tax board.
The state’s intermediate appeals court and supreme judicial court sit atop the judiciary in Massachusetts, hearing appeals of lower court and administrative agency decisions. In addition the supreme judicial court has supervision of the state bar and judiciary.
Requesting records in Massachusetts
Having a copy of a court decision may be useful for several reasons: to enforce a protection order, to collect a settlement, to clarify child custody, or to prove that you served the court ordered probation or parole.
Records are searchable on the following site: https://www.masscourts.org but the case transcript will not be visible, just basic information about the parties in the case, the date, and case number. To get an official copy of any court records it’s necessary to make a specific request through the court clerk’s office. Go to this page to find contact information for the courthouse where the case was held: http://www.mass.gov/courts/court-info/courthouses/.
Probate and family court records
Some records are not available through the courts for reasons of confidentiality, such as those that describe juvenile cases or medical information. Probate records that deal with the disposition of property after a person’s death should be available. Start your search here: https://www.mass.gov/how-to/get-a-copy-of-your-probate-and-family-court-record.
Official records of divorce that contain all of the terms of property distribution, child custody, and other post-divorce arrangements are found through the state family and probate court. The following website describes different forms of documents available, the fees associated, and how to request them: https://www.mass.gov/how-to/get-a-copy-of-your-probate-and-family-court-record.
The federal court in Massachusetts, not state court, deals with bankruptcy cases. Federal courts also handle lawsuits involving multiple states, federal crimes, and other issues. To research a bankruptcy or other federal-level case, start with this search site: https://pcl.uscourts.gov/pcl/index.jsf.