Last updated: September 30, 2013
As home to about 7.5 million residents, Boston is one of the most densely populated regions in America. Deeply rooted in history and tradition, the “Cradle of Liberty” played a critical role in the founding of our nation. Boston boasts two world-class universities in Harvard and M.I.T., but locals know you have not truly experienced Boston traditions until you catch a glimpse of the Green Monster inside the legendary Fenway Park.
Just as Greater Boston consists of countless interconnected neighborhoods, its courthouses are numerous and scattered. Knowing which court is appropriate for your particular issue and location is critical to your success, so here is a useful guide to the Boston court system.
Note: Also known as the “John Adams Courthouse,” this building houses the highest trial state-level courts in Boston, the Superior Court, along with the Land Court, Appeals Court and the Supreme Judicial Court. The Court Café is small and cash-only, but there are thankfully other food options.
(617) 788-8130 (civil cases)
(617) 788-8160 (criminal cases)
On the civil side, the Superior Court has jurisdiction in civil actions over $25,000, when injunctive relief is sought and in actions involving labor disputes. On the criminal side, it has jurisdiction over all felony matters, including exclusive original jurisdiction in first degree murder cases.
Note: The Land Court Department has jurisdiction over the registration of title to real property and over all matters and disputes concerning such title after registration.
Note: The Appeals Court reviews decisions made by lower courts. The Appeals Court has twenty-five justices who review cases in rotating panels of three.
Note: The Supreme Judicial Court is the highest court in the state and generally gets the final word in all state legal matters.
(617) 788-8600 (Criminal Cases)
(617) 788-8400 (Civil Cases)
(617) 788-8411 (Small Claims)
(617) 788-8571 (Juvenile)
Note: The Edward W. Brooke Courthouse is the primary building for the Boston Municipal Court system. The cases handled here are typically criminal misdemeanors, small claims court and relatively small civil lawsuits here. Parking is conveniently located right across the street from the courthouse, but it is absurdly expensive. There is a small food stand but no cafeteria, so you should consider bringing a sack lunch. Also, bring a sweater in the winter because the building gets cold! The courthouse also contains three specialized departments: the Boston Housing Court Department; the Juvenile Court Department of Suffolk County; and the Probate and Family Court.
Note: This municipal court has jurisdiction over the towns of Allston and Brighton.
Note: This municipal court has jurisdiction over the town of Charleston.
Note: This municipal court has jurisdiction over the town of Dorchester.
Note: This municipal court has jurisdiction over the towns of East Boston and Winthrop.
Note: This municipal court has jurisdiction over the town of Roxbury.
Note: This municipal court has jurisdiction over the town of South Boston.
Note: This municipal court has jurisdiction over the towns of West Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, Hyde Park, Roslindale, parts of Mission Hill and the Mattapan Sections of Boston.
Note: This municipal court has jurisdiction over the town of Chelsea.
Note: The John Joseph Moakley U.S. Courthouse hosts both the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts and the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. The building’s architecture is a gorgeous embodiment of justice and civic virtue, and it is located on possibly the best chunk of waterfront real estate in the entire Boston metropolitan area. Oddly enough, Sebastian's Café is quite delicious and affordable compared to other court cafés (try their Buffalo Chicken Wrap on Wednesdays).