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Real Estate Development in the Time of Coronavirus: Massachusetts – Update 5/27/20

Supreme Judicial Court Issues Order Signaling End of Deadline and Statute of Limitations Extensions

On May 26, 2020, the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) issued an order further staying certain hearings and trials and limiting access to courthouses until at least July 1, 2020. The order states that there will be no further extension of deadlines or statutes of limitations beyond June 30, 2020, “unless there is a new surge in COVID-19 cases in the Commonwealth and the SJC determines that a new or extended period of tolling is needed.” For those waiting for an appeal period to run on a local permit before proceeding with their development, the likely end to these extensions should be welcome news. The key provisions of the SJC’s new order are: 

  • Statutes of limitations are now tolled from March 17 through June 30, 2020. All other deadlines set forth in statutes, court rules, standing orders, tracking orders, or guidelines that expired or will expire between March 16 and June 30, 2020 are tolled until July 1, 2020 (unless otherwise ordered by the particular court).  For deadlines that began to run prior to March 16, 2020, the order provides examples of how to calculate the time that will remain as of July 1, 2020.

  • Courthouses remain closed to the public until at least July 1, 2020, but the lower courts are directed to continue to expand the non-emergency matters they are handling. Courts will continue to hold hearings via telephone and/or videoconference unless an in-person hearing is necessary.

  • Civil jury trials scheduled to start between March 14 and September 4, 2020 are continued to a date no earlier than September 8, 2020. Civil bench trials scheduled to start between March 14 and June 30, 2020 are continued to a date no earlier than July 1, 2020 unless, in the trial judge’s discretion, the trial can be held virtually.

Each lower court will continue to issue individual orders regarding the scope of their operations during the COVID-19 pandemic and post them here. We expect these courts to list categories of non-emergency matters they will hear in new orders linked on that page over the next few days.

DALA Is Accepting In-person Filings Again

The Division of Administrative Law Appeals continues to accept electronic filings, and is once again allowing in-person filing, provided protocols to limit the spread of COVID-19 are followed. A link to the DALA page setting out COVID-19 procedures is here.

Governor Baker’s guidance regarding executive branch office operations under the state of emergency was not extended beyond May 18, 2020. It is expected that state agencies and offices will begin to slowly increase in-office operations, but hopefully electronic submission of materials will continue to be an option going forward.

©2021 Pierce Atwood LLP. All rights reserved.National Law Review, Volume X, Number 148



About this Author

Dan Bailey environmental, land use, real estate, and municipal law.

Dan Bailey has more than 30 years of experience in environmental, land use, real estate, and municipal law. He prides himself on offering pragmatic solutions to complicated legal matters. While Dan’s “sweet spot” is the redevelopment of commercial property, he has a strong background in all aspects of environmental and regulatory law. Dan also handles all types of real estate transactions.  

Dan has helped facilitate development of a wide range of commercial real estate projects, ranging from mixed use (retail, office, and housing), multifamily housing, athletic facilities, marinas...

Paula M. Devereaux Partner Boston Commercial Real Estate Law Real Estate Land Use Environmental

Paula Devereaux is an experienced commercial real estate and land use attorney, focusing her practice on development, zoning, permitting, planning, and environmental regulatory compliance. Paula serves as real estate counsel for a number of clients in the Greater Boston area, ranging from smaller organizations to large corporations, medical centers, retailers, and real estate firms. She regularly advises clients on Boston permitting matters, waterfront development issues, and in sales, acquisitions, and financings.

Paula is active in the real estate community, serving in leadership...

Gareth Orsmond Partner  real estate, land use, environmental and municipal law, real estate financing, affordable housing

Gareth Orsmond is a real estate lawyer with expertise in land use, environmental and municipal law, real estate financing, affordable housing, and large-scale development. Gareth’s practice encompasses commercial transactions, permitting, resolving property disputes, providing general counsel on a wide range of subjects, and litigating matters in administrative tribunals and court.

For more than 20 years, Gareth has represented diverse clientele, including developers, non-profit organizations, and governmental agencies. He has handled hundreds of hearings and meetings with...

Donald R. Pinto, Jr., Pierce Atwood, litigation lawyer

Don Pinto has more than 30 years of experience as a civil litigator, with a focus on complex real estate and land use disputes. He handles cases at the trial and appellate levels in the state and federal courts and before administrative agencies. Outside the courtroom Don has successfully resolved many disputes through negotiation, mediation, and arbitration.

Don is also the founder, editor, and one of several contributors to Massachusetts Dirt and Development Law, the firm's real estate blog.


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Joel Quick Real Estate Attorney Pierce Atwood

Joel Quick focuses his practice on land use and real estate law, providing a full array of legal services for any commercial or residential development project, including analyzing land use and local environmental regulations and appearing before public bodies to seek needed relief. Joel also negotiates and drafts any restrictions, easements, and covenants required by a municipality as a condition of approval, and, if needed, will seek amendment of affordability, conservation, and preservation restrictions. With experience acting as counsel for a number of municipalities and municipal...