Massachusetts Trial Court Rule XII:
Rule on Requests for Interdepartmental Judicial Assignments
This Rule governs the method for requesting interdepartmental judicial assignments. Pursuant to G.L. c. 211B, section 9, the Chief Justice for Administration and Management of the Trial Court (hereafter, "CJAM") is authorized to assign a judge appointed to any Department of the Trial Court to sit in any other Department of the Trial Court for such period or periods of time as will best promote the speedy dispatch of judicial business.
The assignments may authorize a judge to sit simultaneously as a judge of several Departments for the purpose of reducing delay and duplication in actions pending in the Trial Court.
As used herein, the term "party" shall mean the attorney of record for a party, if represented by counsel, or, if a party is not represented by counsel, the party acting pro se.
1. Interdepartmental Assignment and Consolidation of Cases -- Purpose and Procedure. If two or more actions are pending in different departments of the Trial Court, and if a judge, Clerk-Magistrate, register, or party determines that the separate actions are related actions involving substantially the same or similar issues and parties, the judge, Clerk-Magistrate, register, or party may request that the Chief Justice for Administration and Management make an appropriate interdepartmental assignment so that one judge may hear all related matters. The requests should be directed to the CJAM, with copies to the Chief Justice of each Department in which the related actions are pending.
Such assignments shall be made to accomplish one or more of the following purposes:
- to promote speedy disposition of cases, reduce duplication of hearings and promote judicial economy when each pending action will require a hearing or trial;
- to afford complete and permanent relief which might not be obtained unless the actions are consolidated for hearing and heard by one judge;
- to effectuate a proposed settlement of one case through the filing of a subsequent action in another court department; or
- where there is some other reason, consistent with the speedy and efficient dispatch of judicial business, why the cases should be assigned to and heard by one judge.
2. Content and Timing of Request. If a request for an interdepartmental assignment is made by one or more parties, the request shall be made in a letter to the CJAM and the Chief Justices of the Departments in which the actions are pending. The letter should identify by title, name of court division, and docket number each of the related cases; list all parties and counsel of record, with addresses; describe the nature of the cases; and include a specific, individualized statement of reasons why the separate actions are deemed related and an interdepartmental assignment would be appropriate, with particular attention to the latter in situations in which at least one of the related cases will not require a hearing or trial. Every request must be accompanied by a copy of the current docket entries in the related cases, with the most recent court activity listed thereon. Requests which are submitted without current docket sheets need not be considered.
A party making a request pursuant to this Rule shall at the same time send a copy of such request to all parties in the related cases, and to any judge who has been specially assigned to any of the cases, and, as to any case to which no judge has been specially assigned, to the first justice of the court in which that case is pending. Any party opposing the request will have seven days from receipt of the request to submit to the CJAM and Chief Justices of the respective Departments a letter in opposition with a statement of the reasons therefor.
Except for good cause shown and described in the request, a request for an interdepartmental judicial assignment will not be considered if made within 60 days prior to an established trial date. Cases shall not be removed from a trial list solely because a request for an interdepartmental judicial assignment is pending.
3. Applicable Considerations. Factors to be considered in determining whether actions are related include the following:
- whether the actions involve the same parties (including children) and the same attorneys;
- whether, in child welfare cases in which all parties are not identical, the person who is not a party to one of the cases sought to be consolidated is a parent, foster parent, guardian, relative or caretaker who seeks custody, visitation, or related orders regarding the child;
- whether the actions involve common, or substantially the same or similar, questions of law and fact;
- whether the witnesses and the evidence to be presented in the separate actions will be the same or similar; and
- whether the requested forms of relief are similar or related.
Factors to be considered in determining whether allowance of the request would tend to promote the speedy dispatch of court business and to reduce delay and duplication include the following:
- whether the actions are in similar stages of readiness;
- whether either action has an established trial date;
- whether the request was made to take advantage of an existing trial date in one case for use in the other case(s);
- whether allowance of the request might require that an established trial date for one of the cases be rescheduled to afford additional time for preparation or for trial of the other, unscheduled case(s); and
- whether, notwithstanding the provisions of this Rule, a party already has caused a case to be removed from a trial list by informing the court that a request for an interdepartmental judicial assignment was or will be made.
Additional factors to be considered may include the following:
- whether, if the request is allowed, there will be a continuing or long-term need for a judge of one court Department to exercise the powers normally vested within another court Department, or whether the assignment only will be needed for one hearing;
- especially in cases involving child welfare, whether, due to special assignment to, or continuing familiarity with, one of the cases, it would be appropriate for the same judge to hear the related matter(s) to promote case continuity or permanency planning;
- whether the request should have been made earlier in order to reduce resulting delay; and
- any other special considerations that are not apparent from the docket entries or other portions of the written request.
4. Action by Chief Justices. Upon receipt of a complete request, the Chief Justices will review the request and any letters in opposition to determine whether the cases are related and whether the efficient administration of judicial business would be served by having the several actions heard by one judge. The Chief Justices will then forward their recommendations to the CJAM. When possible, the recommendations shall be forwarded to the CJAM within 30 days of receipt of a complete request.
5. Action by CJAM. The CJAM will review the request and the recommendations of the Chief Justices, and, if the interests of the Trial Court and of the parties would be served thereby, may make an appropriate order of assignment which would allow one judge to hear the related actions. When possible, the order of assignment or disallowance of the request shall be made by the CJAM within 45 days of receipt of a complete request. In cases with an established trial date, the decision on the request shall be made prior to the trial date. The CJAM will notify the Chief Justices and all parties of his decision on each request. Notwithstanding the provisions of this paragraph, in no event shall the pendency of a request be the sole cause for a case to be removed from a trial list.
6. Presumption in Certain Cases. There shall be a presumption in favor of allowance of the request if the parties to all the actions sought to be consolidated are identical, if each case will require a hearing or trial, and if the issues are substantially related. This presumption shall not apply with respect to the consolidation of hearings or reviews conducted pursuant to G.L. c. 119, § 29B with post-decree reviews of G.L. c. 210, § 3 matters.
7. Authority of CJAM in Absence of a Request. The CJAM may make such assignments in the absence of a request by a judge, Clerk-Magistrate, register, or party.
8. Requests To Have Related Actions Heard by Single Justice. This rule shall not apply to a request by a party for the interdepartmental judicial assignment of a justice of the Superior Court Department to hear related actions pending in the Superior Court Department, the District Court Department and/or the Boston Municipal Court Department nor shall it apply to a joint request by all the principal parties for an interdepartmental assignment of a justice of the District Court Department or the Boston Municipal Court Department to hear related actions pending in the Superior Court Department, the District Court Department and/or the Boston Municipal Court Department. A party or parties seeking to have such related actions heard by a single justice shall file a motion to transfer in the Superior Court Department pursuant to G.L. c. 223, Sec. 2B and then a motion to consolidate pursuant to Mass.R.Civ.P. 42(a) in the court to which the transfer is made.
As adopted effective December 2, 1996; and amended, effective July 1, 2005