Lee J. Gartenberg, Hon. Christopher J. Armstrong (ret.) honored at Gala Dinner

Issue December/January 2008 By Bill Archambeault

The Massachusetts Bar Association honored Lee J. Gartenberg and former Appeals Court Chief Justice Christopher J. Armstrong with two of its top awards at its 2008 Gala Dinner on Nov. 12 at the John Joseph Moakley U.S. Courthouse on the Boston Waterfront.

The annual dinner also featured a keynote speech on “Mindfulness in the Law” by Leonard L. Riskin, the Chesterfield Smith Professor of Law at the University of Florida Levin College of Law.

Gartenberg, the director of Inmate Legal Services for the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Office for more than 25 years and a longtime MBA leader, was awarded the MBA Gold Medal Award, which is given to individuals who have provided outstanding legal services benefiting the legal profession in Massachusetts.

Armstrong, the former chief justice of the Massachusetts Appeals Court, was awarded the Chief Justice Edward F. Hennessey Award. It is given to Massachusetts judges at either the state or federal level who have demonstrated extraordinary leadership and dedication to improving the administration of justice and upholding the highest traditions for public service.

In introducing Gartenberg, longtime friend and fellow MBA leader Peter T. Elikann said, “Lee Gartenberg is not just the heart and soul of the MBA — it’s very core and center — he is the very heart and soul of the Massachusetts Bar itself.”

Gartenberg said he was humbled to receive the Gold Medal and praised the MBA for awarding it to someone practicing in the field of legal services.
“It is amazing how many people contributed to the important work done by this organization,” Gartenberg said. “Giving this award to someone like me says so much about the MBA.”

Appeals Court Judge Cynthia J. Cohen, in introducing Armstrong, said, “More than any other judge of the Appeals Court, Chief Justice Armstrong was responsible for shaping that court.”

As chief justice, Armstrong oversaw the expansion of the court from 14 to 24 judges, and, within three years, eliminated the backlog.

“It was an amazing turnaround,” Cohen said.

Armstrong thanked the other Appeals Court justices he worked with and led, noting that they were the most overworked group of judges he had ever seen. “Judges, in those days, in my mind, deserved special accolades,” he said. “This was a band of true heroes, in my opinion.”

To serve as a judge at the creation of the Appeal Court, when there were just six judges, as well as steer into respectability, he said, was “the pride of my professional life.”

In introducing Riskin, MBA President Edward W. McIntyre noted the profound effect that Riskin’s teachings had on him.

“I approached my practice differently,” McIntyre said.

Before his speech was cut short by a fire alarm, Riskin asked everyone to take a step back from their busy schedules to be more thoughtful in how they approach clients, opposing counsel and their own practices.

He asked the audience to take a single raisin from boxes on each table between their fingers and focus on nothing else. Blocking out all distractions to focus on and contemplate the raisin, he said, could be applied to everyday situations.

“Mindfulness is paying attention in a certain way,” Riskin explained.

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