NEFAC Calls for Mass. Courts to Follow Rules on Remote Access to Criminal Case Information

Update (Jan. 22, 2024): The Executive Office of the Trial Court responds to NEFAC’s letter. In short, Chief Justice Brieger agrees with the coalition’s position and writes that the issue should be resolved by March.

CONTACT Justin Silverman | 774.244.2365 |


The New England First Amendment Coalition called on the Massachusetts Trial Court today to follow rules of public access and begin posting basic information online for all criminal cases.

Court rules on electronic records require certain information — such as the names of attorneys and the case calendar — to be provided electronically to the public.

Much of this information, however, appears to be missing for members of the general public searching criminal cases using the state’s online court records portal, explained NEFAC in a Dec. 21 letter.

While docket and calendar information for criminal cases in Superior Court appear to be available online for those without an attorney login, the same information is not provided for Boston Municipal Courts and District Courts where the majority of cases are heard.

NEFAC explained that:

“In addition to being in violation of the court’s rules, these omissions are problematic for other reasons. They force journalists to regularly call court clerks with simple questions about when a specific hearing is scheduled, the status of a particular case or how a judge has ruled on a given motion. Multiple calls are often needed before someone at the court can be found to provide this information. Not only is this an unnecessary burden on journalists, but on court clerks as well.”

NEFAC is the region’s leading advocate for the First Amendment and the public’s right to know about government. All coalition briefs, advocacy letters and statements can be found here.

NEFAC was formed in 2006 to advance and protect the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment, including the principle of the public’s right to know. We’re a broad-based organization of people who believe in the power of an informed democratic society. Our members include lawyers, journalists, historians, academics and private citizens.

Our coalition is funded through contributions made by those who value the First Amendment and who strive to keep government accountable. Please make a donation here.

NEFAC is supported by the Estate of Gloria Negri. Additional funding is provided by Leadership Circle donors including the Rhode Island Foundation, The Boston Globe, Paul and Ann Sagan, and the Robertson Foundation. Major Supporters of NEFAC’s work are Hearst Connecticut Media Group, Boston University, the Academy of New England Journalists, the Society of Professional Journalists Foundation, Genie Gannett for the First Amendment Museum, Linda Pizzuti Henry, the Champa Charitable Foundation Fund, Connecticut Public and WBUR-Boston.