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Judicial Fellowship Program benefits judiciary, recent graduates

(Boston Revised 01/10/12) New England Law | Boston: Cheryl Parker ’11 had heard about the foreclosure crisis, but it wasn’t until this fall that she witnessed how it plays out in the courtroom. A judicial fellow in the Massachusetts Land Court, Parker’s immersion in foreclosure law and other issues has enabled her to assist both the court and the Commonwealth.

Judicial Fellows 11-12 Judicial fellows (L-R): Connie Rankins, Cheryl Parker, Andrea Daley, Holly Hinte, and John Tilley (all members of the Class of 2011).
Parker is part of a select group of 2011 New England Law | Boston graduates chosen for the law school’s Judicial Fellowship Program. The program is assisting in meeting unmet needs in the court system during this period of economic downturn.

“The current economic crisis is having a broad impact on public funding nationwide,” notes Dean John F. O’Brien, “and the Massachusetts court system has been hit very hard. Our Board of Trustees recognized this reality and responded in a very generous and creative way by funding these opportunities for our recent graduates. This program also allows us to assist the court system at a time when it particularly needs it.”

The Land Court’s three judicial fellows, two of whom are supplied by New England Law, are performing vital service in the wake of state budget cuts that reduced the number of paid clerks from seven to one. “I see the fellows as stepping in for what law clerks would do,” says Hon. Karyn Scheier, chief justice of the court, which has statewide jurisdiction. “It’s definitely serving our litigants.” 

The program assists graduates who were interested in serving as judicial clerks and had not found other employment in Massachusetts by September. “This valuable experience will enhance their résumés when they look for subsequent jobs,” notes the dean.

“I am deeply grateful that the board identified this need and chose to be so generous in filling it,” says Chief Justice Scheier. “It’s a wonderful thing for the courts, students, and New England Law.”

Before the program commenced, Chief Justice Scheier discussed it with both Dean O’Brien and Professor Charles Sorenson, who coordinates the law school’s Judicial Internship Program. She was already confident due to prior experiences: “The Land Court has a very long history of working with students from New England Law,including those in judicial internships and students who excelled in the Land Use course.”

Parker’s previous exposure came from a summer Land Court internship that continued through her third year of law school. “It created a solid basis that I was able to build on as a fellow,” she says.

Chief Justice Scheier works closely with Parker throughout a demanding day. “Cheryl sits in on motion sessions, pretrial conferences, summary judgment hearings, case management conferences, trials, and ex parte hearings,” says Scheier. “She gets the full flavor of the court’s operation from a vantage point where the clerk sits–she’s sitting right up front, which to me is the absolutely best seat in the house.” 

Parker’s work has included foreclosure issues under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). “Banks foreclosing on mortgages usually come to this court to determine if the homeowner is actively serving in the military,” says Chief Justice Scheier. “The SCRA ensures that people who are fighting on behalf of the United States are not losing their homes without their day in court.”

“Working on the service member cases was a completely new and initially challenging experience for me,” says Parker. “I began to understand more fully the complexity surrounding foreclosures, the issue of standing in foreclosure matters, and the cases regarding these issues. I continue to learn something new every day.” 

Scheier ‘79, a former Land Court law clerk herself, takes the advancement of New England Law students and graduates seriously. “I look at Cheryl, and I see a wonderful opportunity to help somebody start a career,” she says. 

The program extends through June 2012. John Tilley works with Parker at the Land Court; Andrea Daley is at the Massachusetts Superior Court; and Holly Hinte and Connie Rankins are at the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court.

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