Boston Municipal Court

Boston Municipal Court

The Edward W. Brooke Courthouse, 24 New Chardon Street, Boston houses the Administrative Office of the Boston Municipal Court Department and is home to the Central Division.
Established February 23, 1822[1]
Jurisdiction Suffolk County, Massachusetts
Location Boston Boston
Massachusetts Massachusetts
Coordinates 42°21′47″N 71°03′42″W / 42.363007°N 71.061544°W / 42.363007; -71.061544Coordinates: 42°21′47″N 71°03′42″W / 42.363007°N 71.061544°W / 42.363007; -71.061544
Decisions are appealed to Appellate Division of the Boston Municipal Court (Civil)
Massachusetts Appeals Court (Criminal)
Number of positions 30
Chief Justice
Currently Roberto Ronquillo, Jr.
Since 2013
Lead position ends 2018

The Boston Municipal Court (BMC), officially the Boston Municipal Court Department of the Trial Court, is a department of the Trial Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, United States. The court hears criminal, civil, mental health, restraining orders, and other types of cases. The court also has an appellate division (composed of justices that sit in rotating panels of three) which reviews questions of law that arise from civil matters filed in the eight divisions of the department.


Police Court/Justices' Court for the County of Suffolk

The court's history dates to 1822, the year in which Boston was chartered as a city. Two courts were established, both served by the same judges: the Boston Police Court, to hear criminal matters, and the Justices' Court for the County of Suffolk, to address civil claims. The two courts remained distinct until 1860 when the Justices' Court was abolished, and its civil jurisdiction transferred to the Police Court.[1]

Municipal Court of the City of Boston/Boston Municipal Court

In 1866, the Police Court was abolished, and its records and jurisdiction transferred to the newly-created Municipal Court of the City of Boston.[1] In 1978, the Massachusetts Court Reform Act established the Boston Municipal Court Department as one of the seven departments of the Trial Court of Massachusetts.[2] In 2003, the department expanded to eight divisions, after it was given authority by the Massachusetts Legislature over seven other Boston-based courts.[3]

Probation pioneer

The Boston Police Court has the distinction of participating in the initial development of the modern concept of probation in the United States. In 1841 John Augustus, the "Father of Probation", persuaded a judge in the Police Court to give him custody of a convicted "common drunkard" for a brief period. The offender was ordered to appear in court three weeks later for sentencing. He returned to court accompanied by Augustus a sober man, his appearance and demeanor dramatically changed. The judge was so impressed with his sober and dignified appearance that he waived the usual penalty of 30 days in jail and instead levied a fine of one cent plus court costs ($3.76).[4]

Augustus thus began an 18-year career as a volunteer probation officer, subsequently credited with founding the investigations process, one of three main concepts of modern probation, the other two being intake and supervision. Augustus was also the first to apply the term "probation" to his method of treating offenders from the Latin verb "probare": to prove, to test.[5]

In 1878 a law was passed by the legislature authorizing the Mayor of Boston to appoint a probation officer for Suffolk County.[6] The continued success of the system led to its extension to district and police courts in other towns and cities in the state. In 1898 a law was passed extending the probation system by authorizing the appointment of probation officers by the Superior Court.[7]


The jurisdiction of the court is within Suffolk County, Massachusetts, and the types of criminal cases that may be filed include most felonies and misdemeanors that do not require a state prison sentence, as well as felonies punishable by a sentence of up to 5 years. If a state prison sentence is mandated, the Court may conduct probable cause hearings to determine whether offenses will be bound over to the Superior Court. Magistrates conduct hearings to issue criminal complaints and arrest warrants, and to determine whether there is probable cause to detain persons arrested without a warrant. Both judges and magistrates issue criminal and administrative search warrants.

The types of civil cases that may be filed in the BMC include contract, tort and replevin actions in which the likely recovery does not exceed $25,000;[Note 1] small claims cases in which the amount in controversy does not exceed $7,000[Note 2] (initially tried before a magistrate, with a defense right of appeal either to a judge or jury); summary process/eviction cases; supplementary process cases; mental health matters (including involuntary commitments and medication orders, and supervision of criminal defendants committed for mental observation or have been found incompetent to stand trial, or after an insanity acquittal); abuse prevention/restraining orders and harassment prevention orders; civil motor vehicle infraction appeals (initially tried before a magistrate, with a right of appeal to a judge and a final appeal to the appellate division); paternity and support actions; and violations of certain city ordinances and by-laws. In certain circumstances, civil actions may be filed in the BMC even if the parties do not reside or have a usual place of business in Suffolk County,[8] or if the defendant resides or does business outside the state.[9]

The court has jurisdiction for review of findings of the Massachusetts State Police Trial Board and equitable jurisdiction in lead poisoning prevention; landlord interference with quiet enjoyment or failure to provide utilities; sanitary code; and residential nuisances. The court also has jurisdiction to review government agency actions, such as unemployment compensation appeals, victim of violent crime compensation appeals, and firearms license appeals.[10]



The court consists of a Chief Justice and 30 Associate Justices appointed by the Governor of Massachusetts with the consent of the Governor's Council. The Judges hold office until the mandatory retirement age of seventy. Chief Justice Roberto Ronquillo, Jr. was appointed in 2013.[12]


As of 2016, the judges of the court are:[13]

Judge Began active
Appointed by Notes
Roberto Ronquillo, Jr. 2001
(Associate, District Court)
(Chief Justice, BMC)
Paul Cellucci Chief Justice
Michael C. Bolden 2005 Mitt Romney First Justice, South Boston
David J. Breen 2015 Deval Patrick
Catherine K. Byrne 2012 Deval Patrick Assigned from District Court
James W. Coffey 2001 Jane Swift First Justice, Dorchester
Appointed to District Court, designated as a BMC judge 2003
Kathleen E. Coffey 1993 William Weld First Justice, West Roxbury
Appointed to District Court, designated as a BMC judge 2003
Michael J. Coyne 2002 Jane Swift
Pamela M. Dashiell 2009 Deval Patrick
Debra A. DelVecchio 2014 Deval Patrick
David T. Donnelly 2002 Jane Swift First Justice, Brighton
Appointed to District Court, designated as a BMC judge 2003
Mary Ann Driscoll 1990 Michael Dukakis Appointed to District Court, designated as a BMC judge 2003
Kenneth J. Fiandaca 2008 Deval Patrick
Serge Georges, Jr. 2014 Deval Patrick
Lisa Grant 2014 Deval Patrick
Lisa Ann Grant 2014 Deval Patrick
Thomas C. Horgan 1999 Paul Cellucci First Justice, Central
Myong J. Joun 2015 Deval Patrick
Thomas S. Kaplanes 2013 Deval Patrick
Sally A. Kelly 1985 Michael Dukakis
Tracy-Lee Lyons 2006 Mitt Romney
Lawrence E. McCormick 2006 Mitt Romney First Justice, Charlestown
Recall judge
John E. McDonald, Jr. 2013 Deval Patrick First Justice, East Boston
Robert J. McKenna, Jr. 1997 Paul Cellucci Recall judge
Paul J. McManus 2015 Deval Patrick
David B. Poole 2008 Deval Patrick
Ernest L. Sarason, Jr. 2006 Mitt Romney Recall judge
Debra Shopteese 2011 Deval Patrick First Native American judge in Massachusetts[14]
Eleanor C. Sinnott 2006 Mitt Romney First Korean-American judge in Massachusetts[15]
Mark H. Summerville 1993 William Weld
Jonathan R. Tynes 2013 Deval Patrick
David Weingarten 2008 Deval Patrick First Justice, Roxbury

Chief Justices

Notable former judges

Hon. George Lewis Ruffin

Speciality sessions

Specialty Courts are problem-solving court sessions which provide court-supervised probation and mandated treatment focused on treating the mental health or substance abuse issues underlying criminal behavior. The BMC has the following speciality court sessions:

Notable cases


Former homes


  1. "Notwithstanding the limitation of $25,000...courts may proceed with actions for money damages in any amount in summary process actions." Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 218, Section 19.
  2. "...however, that said dollar limitation shall not apply to an action for property damage caused by a motor vehicle, and for a review of judgments upon such claims when justice so requires." Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 218, Section 21.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 William Thomas Davis (1900). History of the Judiciary of Massachusetts. The Boston Book Company.
  2. "Massachusetts Court Reform Act (1978)" (PDF). State Library of Massachusetts.
  3. 1 2 "Session Laws: Chapter 45 of the Acts of 2003". General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
  4. "The Father of Probation in America".
  5. "History of Probation".
  6. Acts and Resolves passed by the General Court of Massachusetts in the year 1878, Chap. 198, An Act Relative to Placing on Probation Persons Accused or Convicted of Crimes and Misdemeanors in the County of Suffolk.
  7. Acts and Resolves passed by the General Court of Massachusetts in the year 1898, Chapter 511, An Act to Provide for the Appointment of Probation Officers in the Superior Court.
  8. "General Laws: CHAPTER 223, Section 2".
  9. "General Laws: CHAPTER 223A".
  10. "Jurisdiction of the BMC Department".
  11. "Boston Municipal Court Divisions".
  12. "Hon. Roberto Ronquillo, Jr., Appointed Chief Justice of the BMC".
  13. "Boston Municipal Court Justices".
  14. Andrew McFarland. "JP Resident Becomes First Native American Judge in Mass.".
  15. Asian-American Lawyers Association of Massachusetts. "AALAM Announcements". Archived from the original on 2015-03-22.
  16. City of Boston (1916). Report of the Municipal Court of the City of Boston, December, 1915. City of Boston Printing Department.
  17. "MADE CHIEF JUSTICE." The Boston Globe, page 2, September 13, 1906.
  18. "CHIEF JUSTICE BOLSTER NEVER PUT ON AN ACT" The Boston Globe, page B20, April 9, 1939.
  19. "Keniston Not Surprised by Judicial Appointment" The Boston Globe, page 7, January 21, 1943.
  20. "Boston Municipal Court's Chief Justice "Man in the Street Judge" The Boston Globe, page C1, May 2, 1954.
  21. "Judge Adlow takes a stroll" The Boston Globe, page 37, April 11, 1976.
  22. "Jacob Lewiton sworn in to head Municipal Court" The Boston Globe, page 17, March 28, 1973.
  23. 1 2 3 "Long Road-Judges". Massachusetts Historical Society.
  24. "CHIEF JUSTICE" The Boston Globe, page 1, October 5, 1983.
  25. "JUDGE FEENEY IS NAMED CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE BOSTON MUNICIPAL COURT" The Boston Globe, page 30, February 20, 1986.
  26. "BOSTON MUNICIPAL COURT CHIEF JUDGE NAMED" The Boston Globe, page 19, May 14, 1988.
  27. "JUDGE JOHNSON TO HEAD MUNICIPAL COURT" The Boston Globe, page B2, April 1, 2003.
  28. Asian-American Lawyers Association of Massachusetts. "AALAM's History".
  30. Boston Marathon Bombing CNN. January 2, 2015.
  31. "What are Specialty Courts?".

See also

External links

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