Massachusetts’ Court of Appeals is the intermediary appellate court for the Commonwealth. This court has general appellate jurisdiction in the state over decisions made by Massachusetts trial courts for both criminal and civil cases. The Court of Appeals is not a trial court, and the three-judge panel does not re-try the case. Instead, they review the evidence, briefs and oral arguments presented by both sides to determine if the original trial court’s verdict was correct. The judges rotate so that each panel is a different mix of three judges to keep things fair and unbiased.
On a separate docket, for specific cases, a single judge hears cases that involve the review of “interlocutory orders and orders for injunctive relief issued by certain Trial Court Departments, as well as requests for review of summary process appeal bonds, certain attorney's fee awards, motions for stays (postponement) of civil proceedings or criminal sentences pending appeal, and motions to review impoundment orders.”
The Massachusetts Court of Appeals also has jurisdiction over matters that stem from the Appellate Tax Board, the Industrial Accident Board, and the Commonwealth Employment Relations Board. This court has a Chief Justice and twenty-four associate justices presiding.
Some types of cases like first-degree murder bypass the Court of Appeals and go directly to the Supreme Court. Most civil appeals initiate in the Court of Appeals then if necessary, get moved up to the Supreme Court. Most Court of Appeals cases are heard in the John Adams Courthouse in Boston, Massachusetts, starting in September and going through June. The Massachusetts Court of Appeals also holds sessions outside of Boston in local courthouses, and all sessions are open to the public.
After reviewing the evidence and hearing oral arguments, the three judges write an opinion. Only two need to agree to form a majority, and then the opinion is published into the permanent record. Decisions made at this level can always be appealed to the Supreme Court.