Massachusetts’s Right to a Speedy Civil Trial

Massachusetts has a little-known provision available for those over 65 years old involved in a civil lawsuit: the right to a speedy trial.  G.L. c. 231, § 59F provides:

In any civil action in any court of the commonwealth in which one or more of the parties at the time of commencement of the proceeding is sixty-five years of age or older or during the pendency of the proceeding attains the age of sixty-five, the court shall, upon motion of such person, advance the proceeding for speedy trial so that it may be heard and determined with as little delay as possible.

Law and Order fans know that defendants in a criminal case have a right to a speedy trial from the U.S. Constitution, but Massachusetts similarly allows this for civil cases (I’m not aware of any other states that do the same).

The law appears to apply for any civil lawsuit, but it can be of particular importance in Massachusetts landlord-tenant cases, particularly eviction (“summary process”) cases.  While Massachusetts eviction cases are intended to go to trial in a matter of weeks after filing, a busy court docket can keep cases from getting to trial right away.  For those parties over 65, Massachusetts’s right to a speedy trial can be used to try to “bump” an eviction to the top of the trial list.

This requires a party to make a motion to the court.  Parties who are unfamiliar with pre-trial litigation should consult an attorney for advice on how to do this.