In Massachusetts, all criminal defendants have an automatic right to a jury trial.  Civil litigants, however, must expressly demand the presence of a jury at trial.

Criminal Jury Trials

The Massachusetts Constitution provides that

[T]he legislature shall not make any law that shall subject any person to a capital or infamous punishment…without trial by jury.

Constitution of Massachusetts, Part 1, Article 12.

A criminal defendant can waive his right to a jury trial pursuant to Rule 19(a) of the Massachusetts Rules of Criminal Procedure:

A case in which the defendant has the right to be tried by a jury shall be so tried unless the defendant waives a jury trial in writing with the approval of the court and files the waiver with the clerk, in which instance he shall be tried by the court instead of a jury.

To be “tried by the court” means to have a bench trial where the judge takes the place of the jury.

Civil Jury Trials

There is no automatic “right” to a civil trial by jury.  Instead litigants in a civil case must demand a jury trial at some point during the pretrial proceedings.

According to M.G.L. c. 218, § 19B,

Any party may demand a trial by jury of 6 of any issue triable of right by a jury by serving upon the other parties a demand therefor in writing after the commencement of the action. The demand may be endorsed upon a pleading of the demanding party. The failure of a party to serve and file a demand for jury trial shall constitute a waiver by that party of trial by jury.

Rule 38(b) of the Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure adds that the demand for a jury trial must be

not later than 10 days after the service of the last pleading direct to such issue.