Massachusetts District Court Standing Order 7-83: Pretrial Conference and Continuance Policies
(Applicable to the Wareham Division)
I. Pretrial Conferences.
All civil cases (except small claims and summary process) and all criminal cases in which a jail sentence is possible will be assigned for pretrial conference, normally on a Monday. Attorneys and parties are required to be present at the pretrial conference.
If a case is not disposed of after conference, it will be assigned a day-certain for trial or transferred to the jury-of-six session. Any trial date may be requested and will be assigned if acceptable to the court and not previously fully committed. At the time of assignment for trial, the parties or attorneys shall inform the court of the number of witnesses for each side and the expected length of trial. In a criminal case, a jury waiver shall be filed before a trial date is assigned, and the Judge will make a finding as to whether such waiver is voluntarily and intelligently made.
Any case assigned for trial will be reached and tried on the day assigned.
The failure without just cause of any party or attorney to appear at the call of an assignment list, pretrial conference list, or trial list may result in a default or dismissal being entered against the offending party, the denial of any request for continuance, or, in appropriate cases, the assessment of costs against either the party or attorney at fault.
In accordance with this court's stringent continuance policy, a case once assigned for trial will not be continued except for good cause. "Good cause" is construed to mean cause which compels the court in good conscience to grant a continuance, and includes actual engagement in trial before another court. Agreement of counsel or parties is not itself sufficient grounds to continue a case scheduled for trial. Failure to prepare for trial adequately and diligently, including advance arrangement for necessary witnesses, is not a sufficient reason to continue a case.
Once committed to a trial date in this court, parties and attorneys are expected to protect that commitment and the time of witnesses by informing any Judge before whom they subsequently appear of that commitment. This court will make every effort to coordinate its trial schedule with that of any other trial court faced with an extraordinary scheduling problem.
Any lawyer or party who cannot be present at a pretrial conference may protect himself or herself with respect to scheduling by arranging with the Judge's office before the conference date several acceptable open dates to which the attorney or party will commit himself or herself if one of those dates is assigned by the court.
This court will not order civil cases "off the list" or "continued generally." Any case once assigned for a day-certain will be continued only for a purpose-certain (i.e. for trial, review, status, further pretrial conference or assignment).
Adopted effective December 1, 1983.