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Robert Cauchon, 78; headed land court

Robert V. Cauchon, who rendered more than 500 decisions in his decade as a justice on the Massachusetts Land Court, died Tuesday at his home in Cotuit. He was 78.

Judge Cauchon was appointed to the land court during Governor Michael Dukakis's administration. From 1992 to 1996, he was the court's chief justice and presided over landmark cases -- including those involving the towns of Edgartown, Peabody, and Rockport -- that helped change the direction of real estate law in Massachusetts.

In a Globe article about his retirement from the court in 1996, he explained his judicial independence. "As a judge you develop this presence, which is important. The thing you develop is the ability not to be on any side," he said. "You find out there are two sides when you listen, and often the side you thought was wrong is right."

A Warwick, R.I., native, Judge Cauchon graduated from Yale University and Suffolk Law School.

Before entering politics and law, Judge Cauchon spent several years on active duty in the Navy, including nine months in China just after World War II and service during the Korean War. He retired with the rank of lieutenant commander.

He joined the law firm of Sullivan and Worcester in Boston and worked there for 21 years, specializing in real estate litigation and public utility work. He helped organize the Democratic Town Committee in Marshfield between 1960 and 1976 and served on that town's board of appeals for five years. He also had been the executive director of the Democratic State Committee.

Judge Cauchon retired to Cotuit four years ago after spending most of his adult life in Marshfield.

He leaves his wife, Betty A. (Pederzini); two sons, Richard R. of Kingston and Thomas W. of Waltham; a daughter, Barbara of Attleboro; a brother, Paul of St. Petersburg, Fla.; and four grandchildren.

A private funeral and graveside service are planned.

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