Supreme Judicial Court Justice Francis X. Spina to Retire
BOSTON, MA -- Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Justice Francis X. Spina today announced that he will retire from the Court August 12, 2016. Appointed by Governor Paul Cellucci, Justice Spina was sworn in as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court on October 14, 1999.
"It has been a privilege and an honor to serve the people of the Commonwealth at this level," Justice Spina said. "I am forever grateful to Governors Weld, Cellucci and Swift for this opportunity. I have been blessed to work with so many dedicated employees in the judicial branch whose commitment to justice for all has been a daily inspiration for the past twenty-three years. I will miss working with my wonderful colleagues and fellow employees at the Supreme Judicial Court."
"The justices of this Court call Justice Spina 'Saint Francis' for good reason," Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants said. "Whenever an especially difficult opinion needs to be written, or a delicate administrative matter needs to be addressed, Justice Spina always volunteers, and then makes the problem seem easily solved with his superb intellect, careful craftsmanship, and gentle manner. He is truly the unsung hero of this Court, the author of nearly 400 thoughtful majority opinions, and a great friend and colleague who will be sorely missed."
"It was a genuine and true pleasure working with Justice Francis Spina," said Roderick L. Ireland, who served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court from 2010 to 2014. "Even when we didn't agree, we respected and listened to each other. He is hardworking, thoughtful and shows professionalism and dedication in everything he does. He was always helpful, never turning down an assignment. I consider him a dear friend and wonderful colleague."
A Pittsfield resident, Justice Spina was born there on November 13, 1946. He graduated from Amherst College, cum laude, in 1968 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in music (piano), and in 1971 earned a Juris Doctor degree from Boston College Law School.
From the outset of his career as an attorney, Justice Spina served the Western Massachusetts community, providing legal services to indigent residents in civil matters, including domestic relations, landlord and tenant issues, welfare rights, consumer employment and education. From 1972 to 1974, he worked first as a staff attorney at Western Massachusetts Legal Services, concentrating on welfare rights cases and landlord and tenant law, then as the managing attorney in the Springfield office, where he supervised a staff of thirteen that included attorneys, paralegals and administrative assistants. He represented clients before what was then known as the Welfare Department, handled eviction cases, tenant organizing and law reform work primarily in welfare rights and education.
In 1975, he served as Assistant City Solicitor for the City of Pittsfield Law Department, where he represented the City of Pittsfield in civil proceedings and drafted the Noise Control Ordinance and the ordinance creating the Human Rights Commission of the City of Pittsfield. He was a member of the city's labor negotiations team and represented the city before the Labor Relations Commission.
From 1979 to 1983 he served as Second Assistant District Attorney in the Berkshire County Attorney's Office, where he prosecuted felony cases in the Berkshire Superior Court, presented matters to the grand jury, and briefed appeals to the Appeals Court and Supreme Judicial Court. He also responded to all of the open meeting law matters and conflict of interest cases investigated by the district attorney's office, and developed an expertise in mental commitment and insanity defense cases.
Justice Spina was a partner with the Pittsfield law firms of Reder, Whalen, and Spina from 1983 to 1987, and after that, as partner with the law firm Katz, Lapointe and Spina from 1987 to 1993. During those years, he concentrated on civil and criminal litigation, with a secondary emphasis in banking law, and his litigation cases included felony trials as well as medical malpractice cases, business litigation and some corporate matters. His criminal practice consisted primarily of felony trials in Berkshire Superior Court, including indigent defense work. Throughout his legal career as an attorney, Justice Spina consistently undertook pro bono cases assisting indigent clients, and in the last five years of his legal practice, did volunteer work for the Junior League of Pittsfield, the Rape Crisis Center, Inc., and the Berkshire Public Theater, Inc. He is a past president of the Berkshire Bar Association, a former secretary of the Massachusetts Bar Association and a former member of the Committee for Public Counsel Services.
In the mid-1980s, Justice Spina developed an expertise in conservation, zoning and subdivision law through a six year appointment to the Pittsfield Planning Board and 10 years on the Berkshire County Regional Planning Commission. That portion of his law practice included representation of homeowners and real estate developers before municipal agencies seeking zoning or development permits.
Justice Spina was appointed to the Superior Court on January 22, 1993, and served as an Associate Justice until 1997. On July 8, 1997, he was appointed to the Massachusetts Appeals Court. He was appointed to the Supreme Judicial Court on October 14, 1999.
As an Associate Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court, Justice Spina continued to dedicate time to pro bono initiatives. He served on the Court's Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services from 2000 through 2011. He also is a member of the Court's Hearing List Committee, Case Management Committee, Information Technology Committee, Personnel Committee, and Library Committee. Justice Spina has been the Court's liaison to the Board of Bar Overseers since 2009, and participated in the development of time standards for bar discipline matters, as well as other administrative matters.
In his retirement, Justice Spina plans to take the opportunity to play piano in one of the many amateur chamber music groups in the Berkshires, and looks forward to spending more time with his wife Sally (O'Donnell) Spina, who he met in the sixth grade, and his two daughters, Francesca and Stephanie.