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The Chief Justice of the Housing Court Response to My Letter

I had forwarded to Justice Sullivan my article at https://massachusettslandlords.com/housing-court-in-ma-is-broken plus I had written him another letter with two short points.

  • Is it possible to instruct all personnel entering party information in MassCourts.org to always enter the middle initial and maybe the birth year of the tenants so that there is no confusion as to who has that record? This is in the interest of prospective tenants with good rental history who might be mistaken for someone else with similar name and a negative housing record. Can this or something similar to this be done?

 

  • Something needs to be done quickly to resolve the backlog of cases created by shutting down the courts for half of last year for all but health-related entries. I recently had a simple eviction For Cause in Western Housing Court with no attorneys involved, no defenses, counterclaims, etc. It took 3 months just to be scheduled, another month to just see a mediator, one more month to see a judge, who automatically postponed it for another month because he wanted to see the Lease and took another 1.5 months to finally get around to writing the Order. Having to wait 5 months to see a judge in Housing Court is too long, it’s not sustainable and it’s not how it should be. Summary Process should be fast. Are you aware of this, what is being done about it, are there plans to add personnel, clerks, judges and what ideas do you have for re-organization of housing court to process cases faster, any ideas to utilize technology to streamline the process? This urgently needs to be resolved.

 

To the first point he responded that court pretty much has to accept the filings as they are so it’s upon the landlords who file to send these Notices to Quit with the middle initial of the tenants. I agree that landlords can and should do that and I have been doing it for several years now. He is not aware of any authority authorizing the court to require a middle initial, date of birth or birth year. I still wonder though if the court can do more. For example, I see that many of the Parties don’t have an address listed at MassCourts.org when we know that both Plaintiffs and Defendants have addresses on the Notice to Quit.

To the second point regarding the issue of taking 5 months to see a judge in Housing Court, his answer is quite disappointing  – basically they are doing what they can. But what I am saying is that whatever they are doing (Zoom, scheduling a date with the mediator first, scheduling in a way to maximize cases heard, etc) is not working and is not enough. We need to go back to putting a Hearing Date on the Summons (not waiting 3 months to be given a date) and zooming first with the Mediator is fine on that date but we need to have the option to see a judge on the same date not a month later in case mediation fails.

Here is the actual response – 2021-12-07 Response from Chief Justice Sullivan