Parties involved in a real estate dispute in Massachusetts are fortunate to have choices when it comes to the venue of the litigation. One of the most strategic decisions that a plaintiff or defendant can make is deciding where to litigate the case. When it comes to real property disputes, the Massachusetts Land Court and the Superior Court have overlapping jurisdiction, also referred to as concurrent jurisdiction, on certain claims. While the Superior Court enjoys broad jurisdiction over a variety of civil and criminal matters, the Land Court specializes in disputes involving real property. Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 212, § 26A, permits either party to remove any non-jury civil action involving "any right, title or interest in land" from the Superior Court to the Land Court. The claim must not be one that entitles a party to a jury trial because the Land Court only conducts jury-waived trials, frequently called bench trials.
The Land Court Department of the Massachusetts Trial Court exists, in part, because issues involving title, easements, and the various other rights in property are complex enough that judges with special expertise are preferable.
A partition action is a legal proceeding to force the sale of real estate that is held by multiple owners, and to fairly divide the sale proceeds among the owners. A partition action is often used a last resort when one or more owners want to sell, but cannot agree with the other owners on the terms of the sale. Partition actions are governed entirely by Chapter 241 of the Massachusetts General Laws. "Any person, except a tenant by the entirety [a married couple], owning a present undivided legal estate in land, not subject to redemption" has a right to partition under Chapter 241. M.G.L. c. 241, § 1.
In a decision handed down just last week, the Appeals Court ruled that a large project permitting appeal filed in the Land Court's six-year-old permit session cannot be removed to the Housing Court, since the Housing Court lacks jurisdiction over such matters. In Buccaneer Development, Inc. v. Zoning Board of Appeals of Lenox, Appeals Ct. No. 1-P-1159, the Appeals Court vacated a Housing Court judgment upholding the Town of Lenox's denial of a special permit for construction of a twenty-three home retirement community, and remanded the matter to the Land Court for a new trial.