At arraignment in Massachusetts District Court, the judge will set a pretrial hearing for the case and order to the prosecutor and defense attorney to engage in a pretrial conference.[1] 

The conference must take place prior to the pretrial hearing—even if both events happen on the same day.

The subjects to be addressed during the pretrial conference include:

  • Discovery matters that will be the subject of pretrial motions,
  • Whether the case can be disposed without trial, and
  • If trial is likely, the parties need to (1) set a date, (2) estimate the length of the trial, (3) determine the availability of witnesses, and (4) stipulate to facts that are uncontested.

The results of the conference will be written down in a pretrial “conference report” (see for Form DC CR-23) which will be signed by both sides and submitted to the clerk’s office, along with a certificate of discovery compliance, before the pretrial hearing.

In some courts, a magistrate may be appointed to oversee the pretrial conference. 

If the attorneys fail to comply with the pretrial conference order, the judge may require them to attend a compliance hearing. 

During this supervised hearing, the prosecution and the defense attorney will be compelled to satisfy the pretrial conference order originally issued at arraignment.

[1] See Mass. R. Crim. P. 11 and Dist./Mun. Cts. R. Crim. P. 3(c)