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.
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
"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."
Excellence 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
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