MBA honors Judge Gertner, Keating, Mintz at Centennial Ball

Issue June 2011 By Bill Archambeault

On the occasion of its 100th anniversary celebration, the Massachusetts Bar Association honored a number of legal professionals for their contributions at this year's Centennial Ball.

MBA Chief Justice Edward F. Hennessey Award

U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Gertner

The award is given to individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary leadership and dedication to improving the administration of justice, furthering public understanding of, and respect for, the law; advancing legal scholarship and enriching the literature of the law, and, in so doing, upholding the highest traditions of public service.

MBA President-elect Richard P. Campbell presented retiring U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Gertner with the MBA Chief Justice Edward F. Hennessey Award.

The award, which is decided by special vote of the MBA's Executive Committee, has been given only five other times, to: Chief Justice Edward F. Hennessey (1988), Hon. Joseph L. Tauro (1993), Hon. William G. Young (2006), Hon. Christopher Armstrong (2008) and Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall (2009).

Gertner gave a humorously self-deprecating acceptance speech in which she described her transition in 1994 from a trial defense attorney to judge, replacing retiring Judge A. David Mazzone. After exhaustively studying the case materials, she took her seat for the first time and realized she couldn't see out over the judge's bench.

"My first order as a federal judge was to order phone books" to sit on, she said. She also recalled walking into the courtroom without her robes on, and once, carrying her pocketbook into the courtroom with her.

Gertner's autobiography, In Defense of Women: Memoirs of an Unrepentant Advocate, was published in April, and her reputation for speaking out has earned her attention within the profession.

"We don't want judges to be machines. We want judges to know what they believe in. I wrote countless opinions because I wanted people to know where I was coming from. I created space for that kind of discussion, and it is with considerable sadness that I'm retiring as of Sept. 1," she said, before hinting at her post-judicial career.

"I want to speak, I want to write, I want to talk about what these experiences have been like," said Gertner, who will be a lecturer on law at Harvard Law School starting in the winter 2011 term.

"Retirement, candidly, is not what I have in mind," she said, predicting "a Wikileaks dump" of briefs she's been saving up on Sept. 2, the day after she retires, alluding to the controversial online release of confidential U.S. documents.

MBA Gold Medal Award

Attorney Michael B. Keating

The award is given to individuals who have provided outstanding legal services that have benefited the legal profession in Massachusetts. Candidates must have performed actions that have enhance the image of the legal profession and the MBA, and demonstrate a commitment to public service and the principles embodied in the MBA.

MBA Past President Leo V. Boyle introduced MBA Gold Medal Award recipient Michael B. Keating as the "classic lawyer-statesman."

"Mike Keating, this is our hall of fame, and you deserve to be in it," Boyle said, acknowledging Keating's role as the chairman of the Supreme Judicial Court's Court Management Advisory Board, describing his leadership as "visionary."

If the Massachusetts Legislature institutes major court reform legislation, Boyle said, Keating will deserve a share of the credit.

Keating, a partner at Foley Hoag LLP and the chairman of its Litigation Department, credited the MBA for outstanding public service work and its steadfast advocacy for the courts.

"No organization has stepped forward more aggressively" and effectively for the proper funding of the courts, Keating said.

"This is not easy advocacy."

MBA Centennial Award

Attorney Richard G. Mintz

Presented to a person of extraordinary achievement who materially advanced the rule of law, enhanced the integrity of lawyers, judges or the legal profession, engaged in important legal scholarship, or protected the democratic principles upon which the country was founded.

MBA Vice President Douglas K. Sheff delivered a presentation honoring his mentor Richard G. Mintz, who died April 20 at the age of 89. Against the backdrop of old photos of Mintz and an audio snippet of Mintz speaking, Sheff gave an overview of Mintz's contributions to his firm and the profession. (See Mintz tribute, p. 14.)

The son of one of the firm's founders, Mintz was the eighth attorney hired. Practicing in its Real Estate, Trust and Estates and Corporate Sections, Mintz had been with the firm more than 60 years.

"Richard's career began at the outset of a tremendous transformation at Mintz Levin, and he helped to usher in remarkable success for the firm without losing any of the humanity instilled in its members from the very beginning," Sheff said.

"With Richard's blessing, Mintz Levin has sought to give back to the community, and in fact helped make it possible for such charitable institutions as the Jimmy fund and the Dana Farber Hospital to flourish. It created a nationally renowned Domestic Violence Prevention Program that made Richard extremely proud, and then provided countless hours pro bono to ensure its success. Richard was always active in Vilna Shul, environmental groups and Discovering Justice, which prepares inner-city kids for the legal profession."

Mintz Chairman Robert Popeo accepted the award on his behalf.