Massachusetts Appeals Court

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The Appeals Court is located in the John Adams Courthouse

The Massachusetts Appeals Court is the intermediate appellate court of Massachusetts. It was created in 1972 as a court of general appellate jurisdiction. The court is located at the John Adams Courthouse at Pemberton Square in Boston, the same building which houses the Supreme Judicial Court and the Social Law Library.


The court hears most appeals from the departments of the Trial Courts of Massachusetts, including the Massachusetts Land Court, the Department of Industrial Accidents, the Appellate Tax Board, and the Commonwealth Employment Relations Board.

Some types of appeals are not heard before the Appeals Court. For example, an appeal from a conviction of first degree murder goes directly to the Supreme Judicial Court. The Supreme Judicial Court can also elect to bypass review by the Appeals Court and hear a case on "direct appellate review." In the District Court Department, appeals in certain civil cases are made first to the Appellate Division of the District Court before being eligible for appeal to the Appeals Court. After a decision by the Appeals Court, parties may seek "further appellate review" by requesting review by the Supreme Judicial Court.


The Appeals Court usually hears cases in three-judge panels, which rotate so that every judge has an opportunity to sit with every other judge. However, single judges will often hear interlocutory appeals concerning such issues as court orders, stays of civil proceedings, and awards of attorney's fees. The Appeals Court consists of twenty-five active justices as well as several recall justices who despite having retired continue to assist the Court with its case load. Appeals are heard from September through June at the John Adams Courthouse as well as at special sessions held at various locations such as law schools throughout Massachusetts.

The Chief Justice of the Appeals Court is Phillip Rapoza.


Twenty-five Justices sit on the Appeals Court: one Chief Justice and 24 Associate Justices. If an Appellate Justice (that is, a Justice of either the Appeals Court or of the Supreme Judicial Court) attains age 70 and retires, he or she may be recalled to active service on the Appeals Court as needed. As of[when?], there is only one active recall Justice, Frederick L. Brown.[1][2] The court's members are:

Notable former Justices include:

  • Allan M. Hale 1972-1984, Chief Justice, 1984 Recall Justice. First Chief Justice of the court.[3]
  • Christopher J. Armstrong 1972–2000, Chief Justice, 2000–2006, Recall Justice, 2006–2008. One of the original six Justices of the Court, fourth Chief Justice and the longest serving of the original members.[4][5]
  • Susan S. Beck 1997–2006. One of the most scholarly members of the Court, came to the Court after a lengthy career in public service, was so dedicated to her work that she was known to sleep on the couch in her chambers and was dedicated to fostering collegiality and joy among her colleagues.[6]
  • R. Ammi Cutter Recall Justice, 1980–1990. At the age of 78, Justice Cutter was recalled to the Appeals Court after sixteen years on the SJC. Renowned and influential jurist.[7][8]
  • Edith W. Fine 1984–1995. Third woman appointed to the Court after Charlotte Peretta and Raya Dreben. Served in a wide variety of positions before coming to the Court, ranging from SJC Law Clerk to ACLU-Maryland Staff Attorney to Assistant Corporation Counsel in Boston. In addition to her jurisprudence, steered reformation of the judicial process in the Commonwealth.[9][10]
  • Gerald Gillerman 1990–1994, Recall Justice, 1994–2002. Purple Heart Winner who became a lawyer after having a severely damaged leg, worked to make law comprehensible to all.[11][12]
  • Reuben Goodman 1972–1982. One of the original six appointees in 1972, formerly served as the chief appellate public defender in the Commonwealth and was a special advisor to ACLU founder Roger Baldwin in Korea.[13][14]
  • Donald Grant 1972–1988. One of the original six appointees in 1972, came to the Court as an Appellate expert, and, in addition to outstanding jurisprudential contributions, innovated internal procedures that helped establish the Court in its own right.[15][16]
  • John Greaney 1978–1984, Chief Justice, 1984–1989. Second Chief Justice of the Appeals Court after Allan Hale.[17]
  • Benjamin Kaplan Recall Justice, 1983–1991, 1993–2005. Worked on United States v. One Book Called Ulysses, served as a Nuremberg Prosecutor, Professor at Harvard Law (and authority on civil procedure), Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court, and, subsequently, a long-serving Recall Justice on the Appeals Court.[18]
  • Charlotte Anne Perretta 1978–2009. First woman appointed to the Appeals Court, served as Senior Associate Justice from 2003–2009.[19]
  • Kent B. Smith 1981–1997, Recall Justice, 1997–2012. First attorney appointed to serve indigent criminal defendants in Western Massachusetts, authored the authoritative treatise on criminal practice and procedure in the Commonwealth. Still was serving actively on recall at the time of his death.[20][21]


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Coordinates: 42°21′34″N 71°03′40″W / 42.359343°N 71.061160°W / 42.359343; -71.061160