Fall River District Court
The Fall River District Court plays an important role in upholding justice and serving the people of Fall River, Massachusetts. As one of the oldest district courts in Massachusetts, it has a long history and a wide-ranging impact on the community. This article provides an overview of the court’s history, operations, facilities, cases, records, and future outlook.
Overview of Fall River District Court
Fall River District Court serves the communities of Fall River, Freetown, Somerset, Swansea, and Westport. This vital judicial institution plays a crucial role in maintaining law and order in the region, ensuring access to justice, and providing various services to the public.
The Fall River District Court operates during the following hours:
- Monday – Friday: 8:30 am – 4:30 pm
These hours accommodate the needs of the community, allowing for legal proceedings and services to take place during regular business hours.
History and Overview of Fall River District Court
The Fall River District Court has jurisdiction over criminal, civil, housing, juvenile, and other legal matters arising in the city of Fall River. It currently occupies a historic courthouse building located at 186 South Main Street in downtown Fall River.
The courthouse was constructed in 1903 and originally served as both the district court and superior court for the area. In 1978, the new Bristol County Superior Courthouse opened nearby, allowing the older courthouse to become dedicated to the District Court.
Over its 120+ year history, the Fall River District Court has handled an immense number of criminal and civil cases from the city. It serves as a high-volume court, with thousands of new case filings each year. The courthouse and court staff have also gone through many changes and upgrades over the decades to improve operations and accommodate rising caseload
Fall River District Court contact number
The Fall River District Court is committed to ensuring accessibility for all individuals, including those with disabilities. If you require specific accommodations or have questions regarding accessibility at this court location, you can reach out to the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) coordinator:
- Maura Donovan
- Phone: 508-491-3264
- Fax: 508-646-3597
- Email: [email protected]
This dedicated point of contact will assist you in accessing the court’s facilities and services in a manner that suits your needs.
For jurors who need assistance, the Office of Jury Commissioner is available. You can contact them at 1-800-THE-JURY (843-5879) or [email protected]. TTY services are also available at 1-800-328-3202.
For additional information about the Fall River District Court, here are some useful contacts:
- Judge’s Lobby:
- Kevin J. Finnerty, First Justice
- Clerk’s Office:
- John C. O’Neil, Clerk-Magistrate
- Probation Department:
Contacts for Fall River District Court
If you need to get in touch with specific departments or offices within the Fall River District Court, you can use the following contact information:
- Clerk’s Office:
- Call Fall River District Court, Clerk’s Office at (508) 491-3200
- Civil Department:
- Call Fall River District Court, Civil Department at (508) 491-3235
- Criminal Department:
- Call Fall River District Court, Criminal Department at (508) 491-3225
- Probation Department:
- Call Fall River District Court, Probation Department at (508) 491-3240
- Online Email:
- Email Fall River District Court at [email protected]
- More Contact Info:
- Address: 186 S. Main St., 5th Floor, Fall River, MA 02720
- Online Email: [email protected]
Court Organization and Personnel
The Fall River District Court has multiple judges appointed by the Governor that oversee cases and court operations. Currently, there are seven District Court judges assigned to the court.
The court also relies on the Clerk Magistrate and their extensive staff to handle filings, records, warrants, payments, and more. The Clerk’s office facilitates many court functions and provides information to legal professionals and the public.
In addition, the court utilizes probation officers and other staff to conduct pre-trial services, prepare reports, monitor probationers, and more. The diversity of employees keeps the courts running smoothly on a day-to-day basis.
Court Proceedings and Operations
The Fall River District Court handles a wide range of criminal, civil, and other legal matters. On the criminal side, arraignments, trials, sentencing, and other proceedings for crimes like assault, theft, drug offenses, motor vehicle infractions, and more occur at the courthouse.
For civil cases, the court oversees lawsuits, small claims, and housing disputes filed by residents and businesses in the community. Restraining orders, harassment prevention orders, and abuse cases are also handled by the District Court.
Specialized court sessions and programs provide alternatives to traditional litigation, including a Drug Court, Homeless Court, Veterans Treatment Court, and Mental Health Court. These innovative courts aim to connect participants with rehabilitation services they need.
Jury trials, hearings, motions, and other legal proceedings occur in one of the courthouse’s 6 courtrooms. The courthouse also contains meeting and mediation rooms, judge’s chambers, and other spaces used in the legal process.
Accessing Court Records and Information
Court records for cases heard at the Fall River District Court are maintained by the Clerk’s Office at the courthouse. Individuals looking to access public court records can visit or call the Clerk’s Office for assistance obtaining dockets, filings, orders, case statuses, and other documents.
Many standard court records can also be looked up online through MassCourts Public Access, allowing anyone to search for records by case number, party name, filing date, or court location. This online portal makes finding basic court information more convenient.
If additional help is needed navigating court processes or understanding records, the Clerk’s Office staff and Court Service Center at the courthouse are available to explain procedures and requirements. Informational materials are provided on site as well.
Fall River District Court Notable Trials and Cases
Over its long history, the Fall River District Court has handled several high-profile criminal trials, civil suits, and notorious cases.
Some that drew significant public attention included the prosecution of accused ax murderer Lizzie Borden in 1893, the 1946 trial of a Fall River police officer charged with using excessive force against war veterans, and a 1979 civil suit filed over dangerous conditions at a local landfill.
Other memorable cases involved celebrities with Fall River connections, like actor and Fall River native Blanche Sweet who was sued for divorce in Fall River District Court in 1925. The court has handled many cases that impacted the community.
Impact on the Community
The Fall River District Court provides critical services to the people of Fall River in several key ways. First and foremost, it facilitates the administration of justice by adjudicating civil lawsuits and ruling on criminal charges in the city.
The court also upholds public safety by sentencing convicted criminals and providing probation services aimed at rehabilitation. In addition, specialty court programs give tools to break cycles of crime or homelessness among city residents.
By efficiently processing tens of thousands of cases annually and employing dozens of court personnel, the District Court also contributes substantially to the local economy. The courthouse facility itself has become a historic landmark in downtown Fall River.
Overall, the Fall River District Court strives to serve the city by protecting rights, settling disputes, ensuring consequences for unlawful acts, and providing equal access to justice through due process of law.
Court Services and Resources
To promote access to justice, the Fall River District Court provides a range of services and resources for litigants, attorneys, victims, witnesses, jurors, and the general public.
Legal Aid and Assistance
Low-income individuals can obtain legal aid through organizations like South Coastal Counties Legal Services which has an office at the courthouse. Volunteer lawyers also do pro bono work and give free legal advice. Court staff give basic information but cannot provide legal advice.
Specialty Courts and Programs
The court operates Veterans Treatment Court, Mental Health Court, and Homeless Court to serve specialized needs. Drug Court provides treatment and supervision for substance abuse issues. Separate Juvenile Court handles minors’ cases in a rehabilitative manner.
Accessibility and Accommodations
The court aims to provide accommodations for people with disabilities, language barriers, and other needs. Services include wheelchair accessibility, ASL interpretation, assistive listening systems, and language translation. Forms and resources are available in multiple languages.
Online Services and Information
The public can access case records, court schedules, forms/filings, orders, rules, decisions, and general information online via MassCourts.org. Virtual hearings are also conducted online via Zoom in certain case types. However, some services still require in-person visits.
Navigating the Court as a Visitor or Participant
For those attending court as parties to a case, witnesses, or general visitors, navigating the judicial process requires understanding certain protocols and procedures.
Security and Conduct
Court security is strict – visitors must pass through metal detectors and follow all instructions from sheriff’s deputies. Weapons, cell phones, food/drink, and inappropriate clothing are prohibited. Everyone present must maintain decorum and refrain from disruption, photography/recording, gum chewing, etc.
Dress Code and Etiquette
Proper attire is required. This generally means business casual or neat, conservative clothing. Hats and sunglasses must be removed. When your case is called, stand when addressing the judge and use proper titles – “Your Honor,” “Judge (Surname),” etc.
Attorney Advice and Representation
Seeking legal advice or hiring an attorney to represent you is advisable, especially for criminal or complex civil matters. The court provides guidance for obtaining counsel if you cannot afford it. Always be truthful and cooperate fully with your attorney.
Paying Fines and Fees
Fines from criminal or civil cases must be paid in a timely manner. The clerk’s office accepts payments and can arrange payment plans if needed. Failure to pay can incur additional fines or even arrest warrants.
Victims and witnesses involved in court cases have many available resources, including the DA’s victim services program. Seek support if you experience trauma or intimidation. An advocate can guide you through the process.
Fall River District Court Parking Facilities
For those visiting the court, there are parking options available. You can find metered street parking in the vicinity of the courthouse. Additionally, there are paid parking garages nearby, providing convenience to those who require access to the court’s services.
The Fall River District Court is accessible via the Southeastern Transit Authority. This accessibility ensures that individuals who rely on public transportation can easily reach the courthouse for their legal matters.
One of the notable features of Fall River District Court is the presence of an Adult Drug Court. This specialized court provides support and intervention for individuals dealing with substance abuse issues within the justice system. It aims to address the root causes of addiction and reduce recidivism through treatment and rehabilitation programs.
The Future of Fall River District Court
Going forward, the Fall River District Court will likely continue adapting to serve the community’s legal needs while facing some challenges.
Potential Changes and Challenges
Court restructuring or consolidation of the Massachusetts trial court departments could possibly impact Fall River in the future. Budget constraints and limited resources also pose challenges. However, the court will still need to meet the area’s judicial needs.
Community Relations and Public Trust
Maintaining strong community relationships and public confidence in the justice system remains crucial for the court’s mission. Civic outreach and transparency in operations can aid this goal.
Advances in Technology and Infrastructure
Upgrading outdated courthouse facilities and embracing new case management technologies will require significant investment but yield efficiency benefits if undertaken. Virtual services are also likely to expand.
Staffing, Budgets, and Caseloads
The court will need to continue recruiting qualified personnel and advocating for adequate budgets from the state legislature to handle its substantial caseload. Streamlining certain processes could potentially achieve savings and efficiencies as well.
For over 150 years, the Fall River District Court has served as a pillar of justice in southeastern Massachusetts. Today, despite some enduring challenges, it continues providing the community with critical judicial services and legal dispute resolution. Looking ahead, upholding equitable access and efficient operations will allow the court to keep fulfilling its mission into the future.
How can I contact the ADA coordinator at Fall River District Court?
You can reach the ADA coordinator, Maura Donovan, at 508-491-3264 or [email protected].
What are the operating hours of Fall River District Court?
Fall River District Court operates from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday.
Is there public transportation to Fall River District Court?
Yes, the court is accessible via the Southeastern Transit Authority.
What services are offered at Fall River District Court?
Fall River District Court offers services including an Adult Drug Court to address substance abuse issues within the justice system.
How can I contact the Clerk’s Office at Fall River District Court?
You can reach the Clerk’s Office at (508) 491-3200.
Where is the Fall River District Court located?
The Fall River District Court is located at 186 South Main Street in downtown Fall River, Massachusetts, within the historic courthouse building constructed in 1903.
What are the standard business hours for the court?
The Fall River District Court is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, except holidays. The Clerk’s office is open 8:30 am to 4:00 pm.
What types of cases does the court handle?
The court handles a wide range of criminal, civil, juvenile, and other case types arising within the city of Fall River. This includes both misdemeanor and felony criminal matters.
How can I look up records for a case at this court?
Court records can be accessed online through MassCourts Public Access by searching for a case number or party name. Records can also be accessed in-person at the Clerk’s office in the courthouse.
Who are the current District Court judges serving this court?
As of 2023, the District Court judges are Hon. Paul F. LoConto, Hon. Michael J. Lauranzano, Hon. John A. Tierney, Hon. Karen L. Green, Hon. Thomas H. Davis, Hon. Edmund C. Mathers, and Hon. Michael J. Pomarole.
What happens if I miss a court date or deadline?
You should notify the court immediately and request a new date. Otherwise, a warrant could be issued for your arrest and your case could face dismissal or default judgement.
Can I visit a court hearing just to observe?
Yes, most proceedings are open to public observation. However, space may be limited and some case types (e.g. juvenile cases) prohibit spectators. You must pass through security and follow all courtroom rules.
Are there publicly available court records I can access?
Yes, you can look up case dockets, calendars, decisions, orders, and other records through the online MassCourts system in most cases, unless your case is impounded or sealed.