- Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
- Massachusetts Court System
Media Contact for Supreme Judicial Court Justice Barbara A. Lenk Retires
Jennifer Donahue and Erika Gully-Santiago
BOSTON, MA — The Honorable Barbara A. Lenk retired on December 1, 2020, upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70 for state judges. She served for 27 years on the bench, the last nine as an Associate Justice on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.
On Friday, November 6, 2020, Supreme Judicial Court Justice Frank M. Gaziano made special remarks prior to oral arguments recognizing Justice Lenk on her last sitting week on the bench.
"When receiving a Justice Lenk opinion upon circulation day, other justices could be assured of three things. First, the opinion was thoroughly researched with no stone left unturned. Second, the opinion followed a logical progression that seamlessly flowed paragraph to paragraph until the conclusion appeared self-evident. And third, I think her most notable trait, Justice Lenk's opinions were written with intellectual honesty. They pulled no punches and yet were faithful to the law," said Justice Gaziano.
"Justice Lenk's contributions are impactful and will be long remembered," said Justice Gaziano. "She taught us never to settle for easy answers, and that the solution to complex problems is to roll up your sleeves and dig even deeper. And lastly, to strive for excellence. For that, Justice Lenk, we are very grateful and we wish you well in your retirement."
The remarks and oral arguments were conducted by videoconference due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Current and former law clerks to Justice Lenk also participated in the videoconference.
"I have had the extraordinary privilege of serving on the Supreme Judicial Court with a dozen judicial luminaries, along with many dozens of SJC staff—its unsung heroes—all of whom have taught me what the pursuit of justice is about. I have been honored and humbled by the responsibilities entrusted to me over the 27 years I have been a judge—on the Superior Court, the Appeals Court, and, finally, on the SJC," said Justice Lenk.
"It has been my lifelong goal to meet the challenge set by the French order of nuns who taught at the small, blue-collar, all-girls high school in Queens, NY that I attended in the last century: to leave the world not less and worse, but greater and more beautiful than when it was given to us. While the law has been—and will remain—a rich framework within which to think about human relationships, I look forward to the luxury of having time to read, reflect and think outside of its limits. I hope that, in doing so, I might find ways of being of some use to a world that is, at present, in so much pain."
Justice Lenk was born in Queens, New York. She received a B.A., magna cum laude, from Fordham University in 1972; a Ph.D. in political philosophy from Yale University in 1978; and a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1979.
She began her legal career in 1979 at the Boston law firm of Brown, Rudnick, Freed & Gesmer (now known as Brown Rudnick LLP), and became a partner there. Her practice focused on civil litigation, with a specialty in First Amendment matters.
Governor William Weld appointed Justice Lenk to the Superior Court in 1993, then to the Appeals Court in 1995. Governor Deval Patrick appointed Justice Lenk to the Supreme Judicial Court in 2011.
Justice Lenk was involved in a number of bar-related and other civic activities. She served on the Board of Directors of the Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association; as Chair of the Board of Editors of the Boston Bar Journal; and twice as co-President of the Boston Inn of Court. Justice Lenk was a Chairperson of the Flaschner Judicial Institute. She also served as a Trustee of Western New England University.