The Boston Bar Association (BBA) today announced that it has awarded the 2012 Haskell Cohn Award for Distinguished Judicial Service to Chief Justice Karyn F. Scheier of the Massachusetts Land Court. The award was presented at a reception held at the BBA’s 16 Beacon Street headquarters on Beacon Hill with more than 100 lawyers and judges in attendance.
“As Chief Justice of the Land Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Karyn Scheier demonstrates a deep respect for the traditions and history of her court, while at the same time fostering a culture that sets her court at the leading edge of innovation,” said BBA President Lisa C. Goodheart. “Providing the leadership essential for meeting the challenges faced by a court with a complex portfolio of responsibilities and statewide jurisdiction, Chief Justice Scheier has consistently focused on ensuring that the Land Court administers justice efficiently and effectively.”
Created by the Massachusetts Legislature in 1898 as the “Court of Registration,” the Land Court has a statewide jurisdiction that has been expanded repeatedly over the years. In addition to its superintendence of land registration offices throughout the Commonwealth, today the Court regularly hears a wide range of cases from all over Massachusetts involving rights, titles or interests in land — ranging from disputes between residential neighbors over shared driveways and boundary lines to permit appeals that determine the viability of the largest commercial development projects in the state.
Appointed an Associate Justice of the Land Court in 1994, Karyn Scheier was appointed Chief Justice for a 5 year term in 2003, and then reappointed to a second 5 year term in 2008. During Chief Justice Scheier’s tenure, the Land Court instituted an individual calendar system for judges, much like the federal model where one case is managed and heard by one judge from beginning to end.
Under Chief Justice Scheier’s leadership, the Court often conducts status conferences by telephone, saving time and money for litigants. In a court where the cases require considerable technical expertise in surveying and title work, and grasping the heart of the legal issues may be difficult for many lay people, she is especially sensitive to the needs of the growing number of unrepresented litigants, and has supported efforts to implement limited assistance representation.
“The most striking characteristic of the Land Court led by Chief Justice Scheier is its commitment to serving the public,” said Goodheart. “Despite the fact that budget cuts over the last four years have resulted in the Land Court having less than 50 per cent of the staffing recommended by national standards, the Land Court is unwavering in its commitment to delivering justice.”