Excellence in the Law honors profession’s finest

Issue February 2008 By Bill Archambeault

The Excellence in the Law event celebrated the profession’s finest on Feb. 5 at the Westin Boston waterfront with more than 200 people in attendance.

The annual ceremony, which is hosted by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly and the Massachusetts Bar Association, honored the 2008 recipients of the Daniel F. Toomey Excellence in the Judiciary Award, the Excellence in Journalism Award, the 10 Lawyers of the Year and five Diversity Heroes.

Recognizing the work of Chief Justice Connolly

District Court Chief Justice Lynda M. Connolly was honored with the Excellence in the Judiciary Award. In 2004, Connolly was appointed District Court chief justice, responsible for overseeing 62 district courts. She has overseen the implemen-tation of time standards and a dramatic increase in clearance rates in the district courts — which she calls the “gateway to justice for the vast majority of people who use the court system.”

Prior to her appointment as chief justice, she served as acting first justice in Charlestown District Court and was first justice of the Dedham District Court. She also served as a special assistant attorney general and as a special prosecutor in the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office.

MBA President David W. White Jr., who presented the judiciary and journalism awards said Connolly is widely considered “engaged, well respected and well regarded.” Connolly said she was particularly pleased to receive an award named in honor of her former colleague Daniel F. Toomey, who she said had “heart, a towering intellect and a sense of humor second to none.”

She accepted the award on behalf of everyone who works in the district courts, from the judges to the probation officers to the support staff. She noted the unique opportunity to influence the public’s perception of the justice system.

“We have a responsibility to see the individuals behind the docket numbers and respond in a way that is humane,” she said.

A commitment to covering legal news

Cynthia G. Simison, managing editor of The Republican and Sunday Republican in Springfield, received the Excellence in Legal Journalism Award. She coordinates the paper’s daily local news, oversees the weekly Plus Papers and participates in long-range planning for investigative and enterprise reporting projects.

Simison has spent 31 years as an editor and reporter, eight years of which she spent covering state trial courts for The Republican. Simison joined the paper when it was known as Springfield Daily News as an intern in 1974 and became a staff writer three years later. She has served as Connecticut and Westfield bureau chiefs, court reporter, metro editor for the Hampshire-Franklin and Metro West editions and managing editor for special projects.

White praised Simison for knowing her readership and including informative, fair and accurate articles about the law.

“This award really belongs to the entire staff of The Republican and to Publisher Larry A. McDermott,” Simison said. “I would encourage each of you to work with your local papers to portray an accurate depiction of the legal community.”

Lawyers Weekly Publisher David L. Yas paid tribute to Rosemary J. Cooper, one of Lawyers Weekly’s “Lawyers of the Year” in 2005, who died recently.

“She was a lawyer who fought for the rights of bar advocates,” Yas noted before asking for a moment of silence in her honor.

The full list of honorees is as follows:

The Daniel F. Toomey Excellence in the Judiciary Award
Hon. Lynda M. Connolly, Chief Justice, District Court

Excellence in Legal Journalism Award
Cynthia G. Simison, Managing Editor, The Republican

Lawyers Weekly’s Lawyers of the Year 2007
Juliane Balliro, Wolf Block, Boston
Martha Coakley, Attorney General, Boston
Christine S. Collins, Bowditch & Dewey, Worcester
Nancy J. Kelly, Greater Boston Legal Services’ Immigration Unit, Boston
John Willshire-Carrera, Greater Boston Legal Services’ Immigration Unit, Boston
Peter B. Krupp, Lurie & Krupp, Boston
David E. Meier, Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, Boston
Michael E. Mone, Esdaile, Barrett & Esdaile, Boston
Carlene A. Pennell, Rubin & Rudman, Boston
Andrew H. Tarsy, Anti-Defamation League, Boston
John M. Thompson, Thompson & Thompson, Springfield

Lawyers Weekly’s Diversity Heroes
Harry T. Daniels, Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering, Hale and Dorr LLP, Boston
Hon. Fernande R.V. Duffly, Associate Justice, Appeals Court
Mickey E. Harris, Law Offices of Mickey E. Harris, Springfield
Hon. Charles R. Johnson, Chief Justice, Boston Municipal Court
Bernadette Stark, Western Massachusetts Legal Services, Northampton