An amendment to Massachusetts Superior Court Rule 9A(a)(3), effective January 1, 2016, allows litigants to file certain reply memoranda without first obtaining the court’s permission, and changes the procedure for obtaining leave of court where permission is still required.
Under the former Rule 9A, a party seeking to file a reply memorandum was required to seek leave of court to do so, “within 5 days of service of a memorandum in opposition” by sending, “a letter to the Session Judge setting forth the grounds to support the request” and serving that letter on all other parties. Any such reply had to, “be limited to addressing matters raised in the opposition that were not and could not reasonably have been addressed in the moving party’s initial memorandum.”
The current Rule 9A(a)(3) no longer requires a party to obtain the court’s permission before filing a reply memorandum if: (1) “the opposition raises matters that were not and could not reasonably have been addressed in the moving party’s initial memorandum”; (2) the reply is “limited to addressing such matters”; and (3) the reply does not, “exceed five typed double-spaced pages.” “No other reply or surreply shall be allowed without leave of court, which is strongly disfavored.”
The 2016 amendment also changed the procedure for requesting such leave. First, a request for leave is no longer in the form of a letter but must, instead, be captioned as a pleading. Second, the length of the request is limited to, “not more than one double-spaced page.” Finally, the request must be addressed to “Session Clerk, ATTN: Session Judge,” rather than directly to the judge.
Reply memoranda should not be filed a matter of course. Nor should a reply merely repeat arguments made in the moving party’s primary memorandum. An effective reply is brief and targeted, focusing only on answering an unexpected argument or, perhaps, on correcting important misstatements of law or fact in the opposition.