Cases Assigned to a Single Judge
The Land Court has had a "single judge" (or "individual calendar") assignment system in place since July 6, 20041. This means that, with the exception of Servicemembers Civil Relief Act cases and “S” (Subsequent to Registration ) cases, every newly-filed Miscellaneous, Registration and Confirmation cases will be assigned to one of the court's judges right after the case is filed. All Tax Lien Cases are assigned, in the first instance, to the Recorder.
How Cases are Assigned to a Judge
Initial assignments to a judge are made through random electronic selection, and the initial selection may then be adjusted by the court either to avoid potential conflicts or to allow related cases to be handled by the same judge. Soon after a case is filed, the court will issue a notice of judge assignment to the plaintiff, identifying the assigned judge and directing the plaintiff to serve a copy of the notice on all parties. When filing the complaint, please include a stamped self-addressed envelope in which we will send you the notice of judge assignment. Thereafter, the case's docket will identify the assigned judge by his or her initials. These initials should be used in all further pleadings and communications with the court, generally put in parentheses following the case number (for example, 10 MISC 12345 (ABC)).
Parties or counsel may not request assignment to a particular judge. If a case concerns the same or closely related matters being litigated in another Land Court case, the court will entertain a motion to consolidate the cases or to assign them to one judge.
How Matters Get Scheduled before an Assigned Judge:
• Case Management Conferences
For all cases subject to Land Court Standing Order 1-04, case management conferences are scheduled by the assigned judge, usually to take place within the first three months after the case is filed. A Notice of Case Management Conference will normally be sent to the Plaintiff with the notice of Judge Assignment, and will direct the Plaintiff to serve the Notice on each of the other parties.
• Dispositive Motions, Pretrial Conferences, Trials
Pretrial conferences and hearings on dispositive motions (which for these purposes means those brought under Mass. R. Civ. P. 12 (b) (1), 12 (b) (6), 12 (c) and 56) are set down for dates and times determined by the court. The court will issue a notice providing the date and time the matter will be heard by the judge to whom the case is assigned. Trial dates, however, are usually set at a pretrial conference held by the assigned judge.
• Non-Dispositive Motions
Non-dispositive motions are heard by the judge to whom the case is assigned. Non-dispositive motions (and only non-dispositive motions) may be marked by any party for hearing by the assigned judge, at or after the time the moving party files and serves a non-dispositive motion. Non-dispositive motions may only be marked for hearing on a date and time when the assigned judge for the case will be available to hear non-dispositive motions. Parties should consult the court's website: www.mass.gov/courts or the Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly for the judges’ sitting schedule, which is generally published at least five weeks in advance. Non-dispositive motions must be marked for the time (usually either 10:00 a.m. or 2:00 p.m.) the motion session is published to begin. Before marking a motion, parties are strongly encouraged to consult with opposing parties to learn their availability.
Motions must be marked by written notice sent to the court and all other parties at least seven days (ten days if service is by mail) in advance of the hearing date. Parties may, by written agreement, shorten or waive the time for notice of marking of the motion, but only if the sessions clerk for the assigned judge has confirmed that the date and time is available. Absent prior order or approval of the court, no non-dispositive motion will be heard if marked for a date and time not published by the court as available for hearings by the judge to whom the case is assigned. Parties who are unable to schedule non-dispositive motions at the published times may contact the assigned judge's sessions clerk for assistance. (See list of sessions clerks on the Court Contacts page). Unless the court has previously directed otherwise, all parties on all matters to be heard in a given session must be present when the session is scheduled to begin (generally either 10:00 a.m. or 2:00 p.m. ), and Lists posted in the court on the day of hearing will indicate the courtroom in which each matter will be heard.
Parties should be aware that a number of non-dispositive motions may be marked by others, or scheduled by the court, for hearing by the assigned judge at the same session. Unless the court directs otherwise, these sessions will begin at the designated hour (generally either 10:00 a.m. or 2:00 p.m.), and will continue until all matters are called by the clerk and heard by the judge.
The court may order that a marked motion be taken off the list, may order that a motion not marked be set down for hearing, and, in appropriate cases, may act on a filed motion on the papers without hearing. The court may also require rescheduling of a marked non-dispositive motion hearing for a variety of reasons, including the complexity of the matter, the likely length of hearing, and the prior scheduling of too many other matters at the marked time.
• Ex-Parte and Other Emergency Matters
In appropriate circumstances where the exigencies of a particular situation require (such as ex-parte applications for restraining orders and attachments, endorsement of memoranda of lis pendens, or short orders of notice) parties may seek immediate review by the court on the day of filing. Whenever possible, emergency motions will be heard by the judge to whom the case is, or will be, assigned. However, if the assigned judge is not available, the applications will be dealt with, at least initially, by a judge other than the one to whom the case is assigned. Counsel seeking ex-parte or emergency orders in a case previously filed are encouraged to contact the court to learn if and when the judge assigned to the case might be available.
"S" Cases and Service Members Civil Relief Act Cases Not Assigned to a Particular Judge
Cases under G.L. c. 185 subsequent to registration ("S" cases), and cases under the Servicemembers (formerly Soldiers' and Sailors') Civil Relief Act, ordinarily will not be assigned to a particular judge at the time the cases are commenced. In appropriate circumstances, ordinarily where these cases become contested substantively, the court may assign an "S" case or Servicemembers Civil Relief Act case to a particular judge. Once such a case has been assigned to a particular judge, motions and other matters shall be scheduled in the same manner as other assigned cases.
Tax Lien Cases
Unless in a particular case the court orders otherwise, most Tax Lien Cases will be heard by the Recorder or Deputy Recorder, and all motions may be marked by any party for hearing at one of the weekly tax sessions. Tax sessions are held Thursdays at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. All tax case motions marked by a party for hearing require at least seven days prior notice (ten days if served by mail) to the other party or parties.
1 If you have a case which was commenced in the Land Court prior to July 6, 2004, and have never received a judge assignment, you should contact the Land Court Recorder’s Office so that a judge assignment may be made.