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Learn how cases are assigned and scheduled in the Land Court

Helpful information about case assignment and scheduling for various types of Land Court proceedings.

Table of Contents

Cases assigned to a single judge

The Land Court has had a single judge (or individual calendar) assignment system in place since July 6, 2004. This means that, except for Servicemembers Civil Relief Act cases and “S” (Subsequent to Registration ) cases, every newly-filed Miscellaneous, Registration and Confirmation case 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 Land Court 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, naming the assigned judge and telling the plaintiff to serve a copy of the notice on all parties. When filing the complaint, please include a stamped self-addressed envelope which we’ll use to send you the notice of judge assignment. After that, the case's docket will identify the assigned judge by their initials. These initials should be used in all further pleadings and communications with the court, generally put in parentheses after the case number (for example, 10 MISC 12345 (ABC)).

Parties or lawyers can’t request to be assigned to a particular judge. If a case concerns the same or closely related matters being litigated in another Land Court case, the court will consider a motion to combine the cases or to assign them to 1 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, and they usually take place within the first 3 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 tell 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 for dates and times determined by the court. The court will issue a notice with the date and time for when the matter will be heard by the assigned judge. 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 assigned judge. 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 check the court's website or Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly for the judges’ sitting schedule, which is generally published at least 5 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 ask the opposing parties about their availability.

Motions must be marked by written notice sent to the court and all other parties at least 7 days (10 days if service is by mail) before 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. Without a prior order or court approval, 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 assigned judge. Parties who aren’t able to schedule non-dispositive motions at the published times may contact the assigned judge's sessions clerk for help. (See list of sessions clerks on the Land Court Contacts page). Unless the court has previously directed otherwise, all parties on all matters that will be heard in a given session must be present when the session is scheduled to begin, and lists posted in the court on the day of hearing will list the courtroom where 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 time, and will continue until all matters are called by the clerk and heard by the judge.

The court may order that:

  • A marked motion is taken off the list 
  • A motion not marked is set down for hearing

In appropriate cases, the court 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 how complex the matter is, how long the hearing will be, and if too many other matters were scheduled at the marked time.

Ex-parte and other emergency matters

In appropriate circumstances where a particular situation’s circumstances require (such as ex-parte applications for restraining orders and attachments, endorsement of memoranda of lis pendens, or short orders of notice) parties may ask for immediate review by the court on the day of filing. Whenever possible, emergency motions will be heard by the judge who the case is assigned to, or will be assigned to. However, if the assigned judge isn’t available, the applications will be dealt with, at least initially, by another judge. Lawyers looking for 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 Servicemembers 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 won’t be assigned to a particular judge when the cases begin. In appropriate circumstances, usually where these cases become contested substantively, the court may assign an "S" case or Servicemembers Civil Relief Act case to a particular judge. Once a case has been assigned to a particular judge, motions and other matters will be scheduled in the same way as other assigned cases.

Tax lien cases

Unless the court orders otherwise in a particular case, 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 notice of at least 7 days (10 days if served by mail) to the other parties.

Finding a Land Court case decision

There are 3 ways to find full Land Court case decisions:          

  1. Online at masscases.com (from July 2008 on).
  2. In the Land Court Reporter series. This publication includes all Land Court case decisions and is available both at the Land Court Recorder’s Office and at many Trial Court Law Library locations.
  3. In the Land Court case file in the Land Court Recorder’s Office.

Contact

Fax

(617) 788-8951

Address

3 Pemberton Square
Boston, MA 02108

1 If you have a case that was started in the Land Court before July 6, 2004, and have never received a judge assignment, you should contact the Land Court Recorder’s Office so a judge can be assigned to the case.

Last updated: September 3, 2019
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