Rapoza, McGovern to be recognized for Excellence, May 4

Thursday, Apr. 21, 2016

The Massachusetts Bar Association will honor former Massachusetts Appeals Court Chief Justice Phillip Rapoza (ret.) and Boston Herald reporter Bob McGovern at the May 4 Excellence in the Law event co-presented by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly. Chief Justice Rapoza has been selected to receive the Daniel F. Toomey Excellence in the Judiciary Award and McGovern has been chosen to receive the association's Excellence in Legal Journalism Award.

The judicial and media awards are among several awards given out at the event, which is taking place at the Marriott Long Wharf Hotel, beginning at 5:30 p.m. Others to be honored at the May 4 event include winning nominees in the categories of Up & Coming Lawyers, and Excellence in Alternative Dispute Resolution, Firm Administration/Operations, Marketing, Paralegal Work, and Pro Bono.

rapozaphillipDaniel F. Toomey Excellence in the Judiciary Award Honoree: Appeals Court Chief Justice Phillip Rapoza (ret.)

Throughout his judicial career, Chief Justice Phillip Rapoza has advanced the role of the judiciary, both in Massachusetts and around the world.

Chief Justice Rapoza received a B.A. in history, magna cum laude, from Yale College and a J.D. from Cornell Law School. Thereafter he served as an assistant district attorney in Suffolk and Bristol counties, and was a partner in law firms in Fall River and New Bedford. Beginning in 1992, he served as a trial judge in the District Court and, subsequently, the Superior Court. In 1998, he was appointed to the Appeals Court, where he served for almost 17 years, nine of which as the court's chief justice. Leading the court during tough economic times, he emphasized greater use of its IT resources, expanding public access through the court's website, increasing the automation of court operations, and laying the groundwork for the e-filing of appeals.

Prior to his appointment as chief justice, he took an unpaid leave of absence to work for the United Nations in East Timor as the head international judge on the Special Panels for Serious Crimes. The SPSC was a war crimes tribunal established to prosecute crimes against humanity and other serious crimes committed in East Timor during the period leading up to the country's independence. In his published memoirs, the former head of the UN mission in East Timor described Chief Justice Rapoza as a "tower of strength" in the war crimes process.

Chief Justice Rapoza has subsequently traveled on numerous occasions to East Timor to assist in the development of the country's justice system. Since his retirement in 2015, he has returned to lead programs on judicial independence and to conduct trainings of Timorese judges. Most recently, he was instrumental in helping to establish East Timor's first judges' association.

Prior to his retirement from the Appeals Court, Chief Justice Rapoza was appointed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to serve as the international reserve judge on the Supreme Court Chamber of the UN-backed war crimes tribunal in Cambodia, a position that he continues to hold. The tribunal was established to bring to justice senior leaders and those most responsible for the deaths of as many as two million Cambodians during the rule of the Khmer Rouge.

Chief Justice Rapoza was recently re-elected to a second five-year term as president of the International Penal and Penitentiary Foundation, which is headquartered in Switzerland and promotes studies around the world in the field of crime prevention and the treatment of offenders. As president of the IPPF, Rapoza was invited to a private audience with Pope Francis in 2014 to discuss the challenges presented by mass incarceration.

Chief Justice Rapoza has received numerous awards and other recognition for his judicial work. In addition to several honorary doctor of law degrees, he has received the MBA President's Award for Judicial Excellence and the Haskell Cohn Award for Distinguished Judicial Service from the BBA. Internationally, he has been decorated by the president of Portugal, who awarded him the rank of Commander in the Order of Prince Henry the Navigator. He has also received the Brazilian Medal of International Merit.

"While leading the Appeals Court, Chief Justice Rapoza ushered in an era of openness and transparency by expanding its sessions to the four corners of the commonwealth," said Massachusetts Bar Association Chief Legal Counsel Martin W. Healy. "As a true missionary for justice and the rule of law, Rapoza selflessly took on international criminal justice work in developing countries on behalf of the United Nations. In short, he has created an impressive legacy both here and beyond our borders."

mcgovernExcellence in Legal Journalism Award: Bob McGovern, Boston Herald

Bob McGovern is the Boston Herald's legal columnist and also works as a reporter for the paper. During his time with the Herald, McGovern has covered everything from high-profile murder trials to "Deflategate" in his Full Court Press column. He also keeps an eye on legal stories that frequently go unnoticed by the media -- the inside baseball of the Massachusetts legal system.

When he's not in court, talking to attorneys or following the federal docket, McGovern is often on the street covering breaking news. He has covered presidential campaigns, fires, murders and even a few college football games. A graduate of the New England School of Law, McGovern joined the Herald's editorial staff in 2013 after working as an attorney in Boston.

"Bob McGovern has contributed a fresh and informed voice to the Boston Herald's coverage of big cases and other important legal news, particularly through his Full Court Press column," said Healy. "Using his unique perspective as a lawyer and a reporter, McGovern has excelled at bringing readers the story behind the story."