Massachusetts has a unique forum for handling real estate disputes: Land Court. Land Court is a specialty court which handles a wide array of property issues, including Servicemembers’ Cases, boundary disputes, and other real property matters. Those involved with a real estate issue should be familiar with this court’s unique features.
1. No Jury Trials
No jury trials are allowed in Land Court. If you file a case in this court, your matter gets decided solely by a judge. This, in my opinion, is a great feature of Land Court for certain cases, such as adverse possession, which are best suited for a judge to decide, and not a jury.
Another feature of Land Court are judges with expertise in Massachusetts property law. It is a safe bet that the judge you are appearing before has heard a case of this type before, and has a solid background on the applicable law.
2. Assigned Judges for Cases
In most Massachusetts state courts, judges sit in different sessions at different periods of time. It is not uncommon in Superior Court, for example, to have a case heard by multiple judges for the duration of the lawsuit.
In Land Court, a single judge is assigned to each case. A benefit of this is that the judge will have familiarity with the history of the case throughout the proceedings. This is a huge benefit for complex and detailed matters.
3. Early Case Management Conferences
Upon the filing of a case, the court schedules a case management conference. This is an opportunity to meet with the judge and opposing party and make a plan for the case. Many times, this initial hearing can help pave the way forward to resolving the dispute.
4. Servicemembers’ Cases
Servicemembers’ cases are typically brought in Land Court. These cases are to determine whether a party is in the active military service, which provides some protections against foreclosure and other legal proceedings.
Such proceedings are often confused with an actual foreclosure sale itself. These cases, however, are only a prerequisite to a foreclosure sale. Unless the homeowner is in the active military service, the homeowner generally does not have a defense to one of these matters. Nonetheless, a homeowner who receives one of these notices should be proactive about addressing the oncoming foreclosure against their home.
5. Jurisdiction Over Registered Land
Land Court has exclusive jurisdiction over registered land. Registered land is a unique form of public land record keeping that is certified by the state. Land records for registered land are generally organized by certificates of title on the public land registries.
Land Court certifies such land records, and authorizes whether changes may be allowed to the property’s title. If your case involves registered land, more often than not, a Land Court proceeding will be necessary.
If you need assistance with a real estate matter, contact me for a consultation.