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How Does the Massachusetts Boston Municipal Court Work?

The Massachusetts Boston Municipal Court serves the City of Boston and has jurisdiction over criminal and civil cases. The Boston Municipal Court Department has jurisdiction to review some government agency actions, such as firearms license appeals; and unemployment and compensation appeals. The court handles small claims up to $7,000 with a simple, informal, and affordable system called the Small Claims Guide and File. Here, persons can fill out the forms to file a small claim where the claim is $7,000 or less. The system generates filled-in forms that can be electronically filed in the proper court.

The court has concurrent jurisdiction with the District Court over all criminal cases that exceed a prison sentence of five years, and some other types of cases with the same prison sentence. The court also has general civil jurisdiction in several specialized proceedings, such as petitions for involuntary mental health commitments and medication orders, actions to evict tenants, and appeals from certain state administrative agencies. 

The Boston Municipal Court is responsible for issuing an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO), also known as a red flag law. This is an order from a judge, directing the respondent to surrender their license to possess or carry any firearm controlled or owned. Fireams may include shotguns, rifles, machine guns, stun guns, or ammunition that they possess, control, or own. A family member or the police department in the city or town where the respondent lives can request an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO). The individual requesting an ERPO is referred to as a petitioner. These persons include anyone who:

  • Is or was married or engaged to the respondent
  • Is or was living in the same house as the respondent
  • Is or was related to the respondent by marriage or blood
  • Has or is having a child with the respondent
  • Is or has been in a committed dating relationship with the respondent

The Boston Municipal Court has 30 judges serving the City of Boston in eight court divisions located in Brighton, Central (downtown), Charlestown, Dorchester, East Boston, Roxbury, South Boston, and West Roxbury. The Court judges are appointed by the state Governor with approval from the judicial nominating commission and the Governor’s Council. Judges in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts may remain in office until the compulsory retirement age of 70. 

The Boston Municipal Court judges must be under the age of 70 and must be citizens and residents of the United States and Massachusetts. In addition, all judges must be members of the state bar in good standing and must have some years of legal experience and training.

Massachusetts judges may be removed through any of the following ways:

  • Approval from the Governor’s Council following a joint address of both houses of the general court. With the Council’s consent, the Governor may also retire a judge who is of advanced age, or has become mentally or physically incapable to perform judicial duties. 
  • Recommendation from the state’s judicial nominating commission after a formal hearing to investigate judicial misconduct allegations. The commission may recommend the removal, retirement, or reprimand of a judge to the supreme judicial court 
  • Impeachment by the house of representatives and conviction by the senate

Court dockets of the Boston Municipal Court are accessible online. Note that a search for most criminal cases can only be conducted by inputting the docket number exactly how it appears. The court dockets can also be accessed through in-person requests at the courthouses.

The following case types are available through the public access terminals located in the courthouses:

  • Abuse prevention order
  • Appeal
  • Administrative appeals
  • Administrative search warrant
  • Civil—Bicycle infraction (BCI), motor vehicle, bicycle infraction (BMV)
  • Dog control civil infraction
  • Inquest 
  • Environmental civil infraction
  • Legacy civil MV infraction
  • Marihuana/THC possession infraction
  • Marriage waiver
  • MBTA smoking infraction
  • Motorboat civil infraction
  • Municipal ordinance/ bylaw civil infractions
  • Non-support
  • Rubbish disposal civil infraction
  • Pedestrian civil infraction
  • State fire code or building code civil infraction
  • Small claims
  • State park/ forest/ rec area civil infraction
  • Summary process
  • Supplementary process

The contact information for each Boston Municipal Court is as follows: 

Brighton Division, Boston Municipal Court  
52 Academy Hill Road, Brighton, MA 02135 
The Brighton division of the BMC serves Allston and Brighton. Note that the Brighton Division of the Boston Municipal Court has temporarily relocated to Brookline District Court while the Brighton courthouse undergoes renovations.
Phone: (617) 782–6540, Press 5

Central Division, Boston Municipal Court  
24 New Chardon Street, Edward W. Brooke Courthouse, Boston, MA 02114 
This court serves the Downtown Boston area, Chinatown, North End, South End through Massachusetts Avenue, Beacon, and Hill West End.
Phone: (617) 788–8600

Charlestown Division, Boston Municipal Court  
3 City Square, Charlestown, MA 02129 
The Charlestown Division of the Boston Municipal Court serves Charlestown.
Phone: (617) 242–5400

Dorchester Division, Boston Municipal Court  
510 Washington Street, Dorchester, MA 02124 
This court serves Dorchester.
Phone: (617) 288–9500

East Boston Division, Boston Municipal Court  
37 Meridian Street, East Boston, MA 02128 
This court serves East Boston, Logan Airport, Winthrop, and the Sumner and Callahan Tunnels.
Phone: (617) 569–7550

Roxbury Division, Boston Municipal Court  
85 Warren Street, Roxbury, MA 02119 
This court serves Roxbury.
Phone: (617) 427–7000

South Boston Division, Boston Municipal Court  
535 East Broadway, South Boston, MA 02127 
This court serves South Boston.
Phone: (617) 268–9292

West Roxbury Division, Boston Municipal Court  
445 Arborway, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130 
This court serves Hyde Park, Roslindale, Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury, parts of Mattapan, and parts of Mission Hill.
Phone: (617) 971–1200

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