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Overview of the Massachusetts Court System

Massachusetts has a three-tiered court system, the bottom tier, made up of seven different trial courts, and the second and third tiers, which are the state's appeals courts.

The trial courts include Boston Municipal Court, which hears smaller criminal and civil cases, traffic infractions, and civil protection orders within the city of Boston; district courts, which handle the same types of matters across the state; juvenile court, which oversees adoptions, protective orders, and juvenile crime; land court, which hears real estate and property law matters; the probate and family court; housing court, which handles evictions, small claims, and civil actions involving property damage; and the superior courts, which hear major civil and criminal cases.

Decisions in any of these courts may be appealed to the second tier, the appeals court. This court decides whether the judges' decisions in the trial courts should stand.

Decisions of the appeals court may be appealed to the third tier, the Supreme Judicial Court. This is the state' highest court, which also handles administrative tasks such as bar admissions and lawyer disciplinary matters.

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