Arthur Walter Dolan

Associate Justice memorial

328 Mass. 746 (1951)

The Honorable Arthur Walter Dolan, an Associate Justice of this court from October 8, 1937, until August 20, 1949, died at Boston on September 28, 1949. On October 30, 1951, a special sitting of the court was held at Boston, at which were the following proceedings:

The Attorney General addressed the court as follows:

May it please Your Honors: The Bar of the Commonwealth desires to present on this occasion a Memorial in commemoration of Arthur Walter Dolan, lately an Associate Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court. This Memorial is presented by me, as Attorney General of the Commonwealth, upon the invitation of the Boston Bar Association and the Massachusetts Bar Association in honor of a learned and faithful Justice of this court who has passed from this life to his eternal reward.

It is therefore my privilege and honor, in behalf of the Bar, to present this Memorial.

Arthur Walter Dolan: A Memorial.

We are gathered here today in recognition of the services of an able, learned and conscientious Justice of this court, who, under the impartial robes of justice, performed the duties of his high office with devotion, learning and distinction.

Arthur Walter Dolan, before he became a Justice of this court, had through many years a long and invaluable experience in various fields of public life, and in each and every one of these fields he served with devotion, at all times deeply respecting the public trust reposed in him.

He loved Boston, the place of his birth, with an unswerving loyalty. Likewise he loved Massachusetts, his native State. He was at all times sincerely and patriotically aware of the great traditions and the essential worth of Boston and of Massachusetts. With keen insight, he recognized the manifold contributions that Boston and Massachusetts have made in their long and illustrious history for the advancement and welfare of mankind.

He was born in Boston on September 22, 1876, the son of John Dolan and Delia Murphy Dolan. His father and mother, both of strong and sterling qualities of heart and mind, were born across the seas, his father in Ireland and his mother in England. They came early in life to this land of promise. They chose Boston as their place of residence and there they established an enduring and happy home life. Their son, Arthur Walter Dolan, received his early education in the public schools of Boston. He graduated from Boston College in 1897. He thereafter attended Harvard Law School, where he received his bachelor of laws degree in 1900. Later, in 1922, Boston College conferred upon him the degree of doctor of laws. He was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar in 1900 and began the practice of law at Boston.

On September 29, 1903, he married Christine M. Barr, the daughter of Michael Barr and Mary McLaughlin Barr of Boston. The marriage was a most happy one. There were born to the marriage five children, all of whom, as well, as the widow, Christine Barr Dolan, are surviving.

Arthur Walter Dolan was elected to the Common Council of Boston, under the old city charter, in which body, upon reëlection year after year, he served from 1900 to 1905. He became presiding officer of the council from 1902 to 1905. In 1906 he became chairman of the commission to apportion Suffolk County into representative districts. In 1907 he served as secretary to Mayor John F. Fitzgerald of Boston.

In 1907, by election of the people of the county of Suffolk, he became register of probate for that county. To this important office he was thereafter elected to term after term, without interruption, until the time in 1922 when he was appointed judge of probate. In his long service of many years as register of probate he became an outstanding authority in probate law and practice as well as in many matters of varying nature and character that come before probate courts. Constantly and with intelligence and intense human understanding he applied himself with unwavering industry to the duties of the office of register of probate. As the years rolled on he became a master in that specialized field. To the members of the Bar, as well as to those without counsel, he was always ready with helpful advice out of his store of learning and experience. Many a young lawyer starting at the threshold of practice in the probate court, seeking his counsel, found him always patient, courteous, generous of his time and truly understanding, and came to recognize him as a font of wisdom to be remembered always.

On November 29, 1922, Governor Channing Cox appointed him judge of probate for Suffolk County. Assuming as he did the judicial duties of this important office, with an unusual store of learning and experience in all matters concerning the business of probate courts, he soon came to command the respect and confidence of the Bench and Bar of the entire Commonwealth. Kindly, courteous and judicial at all times, his deep knowledge of the law, his power to properly evaluate facts in causes before him, -- all these qualities combined to make him one of the outstanding probate judges of the Commonwealth.

His service for several years on the Judicial Council of Massachusetts was distinguished.

On October 1, 1932, he was assigned by the then Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court to serve on the administrative committee of the probate courts. Later on, in 1935, he was designated as chairman. He served on that committee until the time of his appointment as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court.

On October 8, 1937, by appointment of Governor Charles F. Hurley, as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court, Arthur Walter Dolan moved with his usual quiet and modest dignity from the bench of the probate court for Suffolk County, where he had served so long and so well, to the bench of this the highest court in the Commonwealth. To this august court he came humbly but possessed of a wealth of legal knowledge and seasoned experience and a fixed purpose to serve the public truly and well. In his years of service as an Associate Justice of this court he never wavered from that purpose.

It may well be said of him that his integrity, in his private life and in his public service, was bounded by no horizon.

Arthur Walter Dolan has gone from among us. But his sterling example of a high concept of public service and his noble spirit will remain, and will be held through long years to come, in precious and affectionate remembrance.

On behalf of the Bar of the Commonwealth I respectfully move that the Memorial be spread upon the records of the court.

Mayo A. Shattuck, Esquire, addressed the court as follows:

May it please Your Honors: I speak on behalf of the Massachusetts Bar Association in support of the motion.

There are two courts of first instance under our system which are of peculiar and immediate importance to the average citizen of Massachusetts. These two courts are the district courts and the probate courts. Justice Dolan gave most of his earlier public service to the affairs of the Probate Court for Suffolk County, first as a register, later as a judge.

The probate courts, as Your Honors well know, touch the people most intimately and in the areas of their primary concerns, their family relationships and their private fortunes. The manner of administration of justice in respect of these two segments of human interest is more likely, I think, than any other process of government to make or break the devotion of the people to our traditions and forms. Probate judges deal with the underlying fundamentals of our social fabric and they must apply controlling forces to human beings in times of emotional strain of great severity. It is a most delicate and difficult task.

To have gained the affectionate respect of Bench and Bar alike, as register and as judge of the Probate Court for Suffolk County, must be regarded, therefore, as an individual triumph of high order. Judge Dolan gained that affectionate respect in full measure and when he took his place on the Supreme Judicial Court as a member of this learned court there was general agreement that in character and fidelity, in spiritual dedication, industry and humility no junior Justice within memory had been superior to him. Indeed the Bar Association of the City of Boston, acting by its council at a meeting held September 29, 1937, unanimously voted a resolution which reads as follows:

Voted: That the Council of the Bar Association of the City of Boston notes with gratification the report of the choice of His Excellency, the Governor, of Hon. Arthur W. Dolan, Judge of the Probate Court in Suffolk County, to become an Associate Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court. The elevation is warranted by the excellent performance of his judicial duties in his present position and by his learning and capacity. The Council is confident that such a choice is destined to meet with widespread approval. The Council recommends to His Excellency, the Governor, the making of this appointment.

I am told that the Bar Association of the City of Boston had never before, and has not since, made a declaration of this nature, based merely upon report of a pending appointment.

The question, so far as any question could rightly exist, was whether Judge Dolan might successfully make the transition into this more diverse field, for if he was leaving behind the most difficult task of all -- the weighing of human fallibilities under trial -- he was undertaking a vast enlargement of intellectual mastery. Here he must become acquainted with every field of thought and knowledge. Here he must become learned in the whole body of the law and study the work of all others who deal in human relations -- the historian, the teacher, the sociologist, the physician, the economist, the clergyman -- yes, even the scientist and engineer. Here he must demonstrate, in this endless area of inquiry, a fundamental of his craft as appellate judge: that no man has the power to be even a good, let alone a perfect, final judge; but that a conscientious man in that position must dedicate himself to the life-long task of repairing his own deficiencies, and thus strive to give each day a more nearly perfect service to his profession.

The fact that Arthur Dolan wrested himself away from a comparatively secure expression of masteries of a lifetime and became, through the years, a senior Justice in this limitless field was, I think, his greatest triumph.

As a judge of the Probate Court he decided innumerable cases. There were, so far as I can find, fifty-four appeals from his decisions. The records of these appeals are to be found throughout forty-eight volumes of the opinions of the Supreme Judicial Court. There were only nine reversals, three of which were reversals only in part. In the last five years of Judge Dolan's service on the probate bench there was only one full reversal.

As a Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court, Justice Dolan wrote four hundred ninety-two opinions (exclusive of rescripts) governing four hundred ninety-four cases. They are found in the Reports of this court beginning in volume 298 and going through volume 324. Of this important mass of contributions to the work of this court one hundred seventy-two opinions can be classified as dealing with probate matters, twenty-four dealt with real estate matters, forty with contract situations, one hundred fifteen with various types of torts, fifty-two with State, county and municipal law, thirty-two with equity causes of one sort or another, fifteen with criminal law matters, eleven with workmen's compensation cases and the balance, thirty-three, with miscellaneous unclassifiable questions. What a congeries of assignments to ask of a former specialist in probate matters! What a turn of the wheel of judicial responsibility that a person whose chief intellectual interest have been to bring order into fiduciary accounting, or to make something workable out of a rule like that announced in Creed v. Connelly,1 should at last find himself speaking for the court in a fifty-six page opinion in Commonwealth v. Noxon.2

Justice Dolan rode no hobby horses during his long service on this Bench. He avoided advocacies, so it seems to me, with conscious abhorrence. There are, consequently, no demonstrations of dramatic obstinacy on his part. He dissented only once, apparently; and then in company with Chief Justice Field (Lawrence v. Commissioners of Public Works, 318 Mass. 520). His contributions to the solidity of our practice and jurisprudence were, from the standpoint of one interested in equity and probate practice, notable, on occasion incandescent.

In a series of interesting cases: Allen v. Moushegian, 320 Mass. 746; Old Colony Trust Co. v. Wood, 321 Mass. 519; Parker v. Lloyd, 321 Mass. 126, Ryder v. Ryder, 322 Mass. 645, he did his proper part in upholding the equity jurisdiction of the probate court. One cannot be certainly sure of his viewpoint regarding the decision in Green v. Old Colony Trust Co. 294 Mass. 601, but he did a demonstrable service in the Moushegian and Ryder cases in pointing out limitations to the doctrine of the Green case.

His opinions in the field of marriage and divorce were soundly constructed. In one case, Vital v. Vital, 319 Mass. 185, which overruled Wright v. Wright, 264 Mass. 453, he made a masterly review of the cases and had the courage to clear up, once and for all, a point of importance with relation to the validity of a marriage contracted in violation of G. L. c. 207, § 10.

He felt, I believe, that his opinions in Ball v. Forbes, 314 Mass. 200, Castle v. Wightman, 303 Mass. 74, and Kittredge v. Manning, 317 Mass. 689, might contribute something of clarity to the muddle which had theretofore existed in connection with gifts of bank accounts and title to joint accounts of various kinds.

To a student of probate procedures there is endless interest in one of our rules of practice and in one established procedure. The rule of practice which I have in mind is that which declares that the findings of fact made by the trial judge are to be taken as final unless they are plainly wrong. The established procedure of which I speak is our somewhat peculiar will contest and compromise system. The rule of practice presents a double responsibility: to the nisi prius judge in honesty and fairness and to the appellate judge in tolerance and balance. The established procedure presents a triple responsibility: to the Bar in its statement of expected proof; to the nisi prius judge in discrimination and selection of probabilities; to the appellate judge in preserving his proper place in the judicial system. These two very interesting parts of our legal apparatus are very important to the solidity of the system. They are capable of abuse. They were never abused at the hands of Justice Dolan.

He could be sharp in his reminder to trial judges of their proper duties, as was demonstrated in Cohen v. Cohen, 307 Mass. 539, but he was in general respectful in his attitude toward the problems and rulings of trial judges. In petitions for instructions there is usually a good chance for reasonable differences of opinion. In thirty opinions in this field, three of which can be eliminated because they came up on report, nineteen resulted in affirmance of the decree below, two ended in affirmance with minor modification and six ended in reversal. In eight opinions dealing with jury issues, the first five (Walsh v. McGrenery, 299 Mass. 153; Foley v. Philbrook, 300 Mass. 418; Brookline Trust Co. v. Young, 303 Mass. 240; Dayton v. Glidden, 303 Mass. 268; Mitchell v. McLaughlin, 310 Mass. 41) upheld denial of jury issues below. Then came two cases, Simoneau v. O'Brien, 311 Mass. 68, and Livermore v. Seward, 311 Mass. 389, in which, after a lengthy discussion of the facts, the Supreme Judicial Court upon Justice Dolan's opinion, ordered framing of the issues after the lower court had declined to do so. Finally, in Salkins v. Salkins, 314 Mass. 556, a lower court order to frame issues on undue influence by four persons was modified and narrowed. One may be permitted suspicion, after examining the jury issue cases of recent years, that the Supreme Judicial Court under the wise guidance and advice of Justice Dolan was more ready than before his time on the appellate bench to revise the findings and rulings of the lower courts in this important field when circumstances warranted a revision.

Justice Dolan's opinions in the field of probate accounting were, of course, surefooted and authoritative. The opinions in the two Fay cases (299 Mass. 608 and 302 Mass. 297) did much to clarify our procedures in the statement of fiduciary accounting. This field is heavily embroidered with ancient designs of protection for interested parties and by its very nature, is both technical and intricate. Friendly discussions and disputations, among those who are deeply interested in such matters, which flowed out of Justice Dolan's opinions in the Waitt cases (312 Mass. 384) and have continued since in the whole area of notice on accounts, demonstrate, very clearly, a lively appreciation of the inherent difficulties of the problem and a firm appreciation of Justice Dolan's contributions to its solution.

It is to be said, therefore, in conclusion, that the career of Justice Arthur Dolan furnishes us with a shining example of the proper pattern of judicial service the world over. He studied hard as a young man and mastered the intricacies of an important if specialized art. He was then called to prime responsibility in a most important judicial post at nisi prius. He discharged that responsibility with extraordinary completeness. He then was confronted with the challenging opportunity to round out his judicial career to the full. Again he met the challenge, in all respects, and did his full part in the essential team work of this tribunal of last resort. He may stand as exemplar of the working judge, selfless, courageous, determined to do his part and to be upright and fair at every point. That was a full service for any man and the Commonwealth and Bench and Bar stand in his debt.

I ask Your Honors to grant the motion which is pending before you.

Walter Powers, Esquire, addressed the court as follows:

May it please Your Honors: The purpose of such a Memorial as this is not to mourn because one we loved now is dead, but to voice our happiness that once he lived. We may here recall some of the moments, some of the traits, a few of the countless characteristic acts of kindness and courtesy, that endeared him to us; and if the motion to which we speak be granted, our recollections will be placed on record by way of inspiration to those who come after us.

Into his commonplace book, which must be a subtle reflection of his own thoughts and ideals, Arthur Dolan copied this text from Ecclesiasticus:

These were merciful men, whose righteousness hath not been forgotten....Their bodies are buried in peace; but their name liveth forevermore. The people will tell of their wisdom, and the congregation will show forth their praise.

We are here to tell of his wisdom and to show forth his praise.

Arthur Dolan had no strange gifts. He was not a genius, nor a superman. He never thought of himself as such, nor would he wish to be so described. The inspiration of his career lies in the encouragement it affords to those of us who also are neither geniuses nor supermen. He, who made the giving of help to others, especially to the Bar, a cardinal principle, would be happy if from the story of his life some other lawyer could be encouraged and guided to a like success, -- a success based solidly on the adherence to virtues that we all understand, and that we all can practice, if we will. His sword was not one that only a giant could wield; nor was his skill the mystic and effortless art of the magician.

His skill was the hard earned skill that comes of diligence and of devotion to duty. He was learned in the law, because he was a constant, untiring student. Many learned men within the sound of our voices have never read and will not recognize the case of Gold v. Eddy. It may be cited as I Mass. 1. It is the first case in the Massachusetts Reports. Arthur Dolan had read it three times. Twice he read completely through the Massachusetts Reports, and at the time of his death he was more than half way through his third reading. For a great many years he kept the famous "Dolan black book " in which he noted new statutes and current decisions of courts both in Massachusetts and in other States, together with his own reflections. He was never satisfied with his knowledge, and he was always eager to learn.

With that trait went a characteristic welcomed by every judge and envied by every lawyer, the unceasing determination to understand, which means analysis, imagination, and above all simplification. That blessed faculty, though rare, is not beyond the reach of any lawyer, if he be willing to pay the requisite price, as Arthur Dolan did, of hard work and unflagging patience.

It must have been a satisfaction to him to go to the bottom of every question, and to dig the truth out of every complex set of facts. But that labor he put at the service of others, -- judges, lawyers, and laymen alike. He was in both senses a serviceable man: serviceable in that he wore so well, and serviceable in that he always regarded it as a part of his official duty to be of help to everyone. He believed that the probate court should be a peoples' court. No layman ever had difficulty in approaching either Register Dolan or Judge Dolan with a probate problem, or was ever turned away without guidance.

From his earliest days in the registry he was always ready to advise any lawyer. But to his mind a mere general opinion or surmise was not nearly enough. Often he could at once supply citations, or refer to specific rules. But if he could not do that at once, he would make the problem his own until he could. Hundreds of lawyers, some of them now in this court room, have talked over with him a question to which they could find no solution, and have in a day or two received from him a clear statement of the law, or of the procedure, or sound advice as to what to do, or not to do, often accompanied by a kindly, and much appreciated, word of encouragement.

One other aspect of his discipline of himself is worthy to be remembered. He was an accomplished public speaker, and a gifted conversationalist. His mind was fertile of ideas, and he enjoyed expressing them. He had a keen sense of humor, a light touch when it was called for, and a well stocked memory. He was always ready for a friendly chat. No lawyer who approached him off the bench was ever hurried away by a plea of pressure of business or hinted away by an air of boredom. Good talk was to him one of the real pleasures of life. In his commonplace book he quoted a contemporary comment on Rufus Choate: "Yes, Mr. Choate is exuberant in speech; but who would not prefer the leap of the torrent to the stagnation of the swamp?" But on the bench it was his duty to listen. He was mindful of Bacon's biting comment, on the overspeaking judge, and whenever he started a new trial notebook his first entry was always the same message, from Arthur Dolan the man to Dolan, J.: "A silent man is never strangled by his own tongue."

With the skill of his calling went the sword of his position. No judge ever conducted himself in that high office with greater intellectual honesty or judicial fearlessness. Humble in his appraisal of himself, unfailingly courteous, patient, and gentle, never raising his voice, he was adamant to improper pressure of any kind. Those who have seen his inflexibility in cases of attempted injustice or fraud know that he could be, as Sir Bedivere said of the dead Sir Launcelot, "the sternest knight to thy mortal foe that ever laid spear in rest."

He well deserved the success he achieved. Viewed in retrospect any success looks easy. That Arthur Dolan, a conscientious, devout man of the highest principles and moral integrity, diligent and painstaking, should have left behind him so honored a name seems not only proper but natural. When to his other qualifications is added Abou Ben Adhem's virtue, that he loved his fellow men, it might be supposed that his name, too, led all the rest by virtue of simple angelic intervention.

It was not so easy as that. Probably no campaign worth the recording was ever won without wounds and scars. Certainly Arthur Dolan's was not. He was no more exempt than are the rest of us from the struggles, the weariness, the mistakes, the doubts, the criticism, the defeats, and all the other common afflictions that beset humanity.

A great burden to him was one the full weight of which can probably be appreciated only by a good judge, -- the burden of judicial responsibility. To such a judge the importance of the human rights involved not only in the instant case but in the effect of a decision on situations yet unborn and unascertained can hardly be overstated.

As a judge he could not bear to stop short of understanding both the facts and the implications of a case, nor could he bear to fail to act as the law requires. It is a common way of praising a man to say that he calls the plays as he sees them. That was no problem to Judge Dolan. It never could have occurred to his mind to call them any other way. His fear was that he might fall short at the fundamental stage; and daily he besought divine guidance, although not in those words, that he might see the plays right.

He had many another burden, and many a wound. Twice he was disappointed, and bitterly so, at the failure of hopes on which his heart was set. Toward the end of his life he suffered from an affliction, over which he had no hope of victory.

Into his commonplace book, that mirror of his own thoughts, he copied:

"0, clear eyed daughter of the Gods, thy name?"
Gravely she answered "I am called Success."
"Thy house, thy lineage whence thy beauty came?"
"Failure my sire, my mother weariness."

His life of service and usefulness ended, his testament might appropriately have been that of Valiant-for-Truth in Pilgrim's Progress:

My sword I give to him that shall succeed me in my pilgrimage, and my courage and skill to him that can get it. My marks and scars I carry with me, to be a witness for me, that I have fought His battles who now will be my Rewarder.

Chief Justice Qua responded as follows:

Mr. Attorney General and Brethren of the Bar:

The court joins to the fullest extent with the Bar in its appreciation of the sterling qualities and of the outstanding public services of the man whose memory we are gathered here to honor.

It is probably true of most judges, and it is particularly true of Arthur Walter Dolan, that a proper understanding and evaluation of his accomplishments as a judge can be achieved only in connection with some understanding of his background, temperament and character as a man. He was the son of a working man. He was one of a family of four children. For many years they made their home in the Charlestown district of Boston. The economic situation of the family was such that if he were to realize his ambition to secure an education and to enter a profession he must do so through his own unaided efforts. With characteristic courage and faith he determined to solve this problem, and did so. He worked his way through Boston College, and then, in spite of advice that it could not be done, he worked his way through Harvard Law School. Having by his own efforts acquired professional standing, he proceeded to use his talents and his learning in the public interest. While building a practice and gaining the confidence of his clients and the respect of his associates at the Bar, he soon became and for six years remained a member of the Boston City Council, the last four years as president of that body. When in 1907 he became register of probate for Suffolk County, instead of regarding that office as a resting place and an opportunity to relax after years of toil, he looked upon it rather as opening a wider avenue of public service. He became an indefatigable student of Massachusetts decisions, particularly those relating to probate law. He made himself indispensable to the bar in matters of practice. He was always available and willing. The judges of probate of that day relied upon him. He became their intimate friend. It was natural that he himself should be appointed judge of probate when in 1922 Judge Robert Grant retired. During the fifteen years while Judge Dolan held this high office he continued to perfect his knowledge of probate law in all its aspects. He became generally recognized as one of the leading probate judges in the Commonwealth. He represented the probate courts on the Judicial Council. He was appointed an Associate Justice of this court on October 8, 1937, and took his seat on that day.

To the bench of this court Justice Dolan brought the ripe fruits of a life spent in hard work and constant striving for the ideal. He came upon the court at a time of high pressure. There is no doubt that his first year or two here meant a difficult period for him. He had been so fully immersed in probate law for so long that many cases in other fields presented to him novel and difficult problems, and required an amount of study disproportionate to that required of other judges who had enjoyed more recent experience in those fields. He worked long hours and late at night, especially when the court was in session. He even quietly expressed doubt as to his physical ability to continue. Yet he never faltered. When several cases submitted on briefs were taken home at the close of the day, he had invariably reached by the next morning well considered views which from the outset commanded the respect of his colleagues. A reading of his early opinions will not reveal the arduous labor which he put into them, because he saw to it that they should not. When these difficulties had been fully overcome there followed a decade of steady and productive effort. There is every reason to believe that he enjoyed the work and especially the realization of the public service he was rendering. When, after consideration of a case, his mind had come to rest, he wrote readily, rapidly, clearly, and unostentatiously. He never strained for a cute metaphor or a glittering phrase. He always kept in mind the true purpose of the opinion. His industry is attested by the fact that he wrote his full share of the opinions of the court in addition to taking his part in the remainder of its work. In at least one year he wrote more opinions than any other Justice. In a period of about twelve years, in spite of a long illness at the end, he spoke for the court in five hundred six cases, including fourteen so-called rescript opinions. His first case was Knapp v. Amero, 298 Mass. 517. His last was Cassidy v. Hollingsworth, 324 Mass. 424. He wrote no dissents and only once found occasion to join in a dissenting opinion. His opinions will stand as an enduring monument to his memory.

In probate law and in the law of trusts and in procedure relative to these matters he was always a master. From the first he wrote many strong opinions in this field, and his careful study and long experience were also of great help to his associates when they had occasion to write opinions dealing with these branches of the law.

It was in the consultation room and in the many informal discussions which constantly take place among the members of the court that his colleagues came best to know and most to admire Justice Dolan. His attitude was at all times that of the perfect judge. He was calm, thoughtful, and objective in consideration of cases. He showed no trace of excitement or anger, however earnest the argument might become. He was ever ready to hear and especially anxious to understand the position of any judge who did not agree with him. Although by nature a sensitive man, he could endure criticism patiently and without taking offence. He possessed the difficult but indispensable faculty of holding his mind open and being wholly ready to change his views, if after a thorough and absolutely impartial examination, the other side seemed to have the better of the argument. His ever present good nature and his sense of humor, sometimes illuminated by a quotation from the classics, often smoothed the way. Yet he was in no sense a weak, complacent, or compromising judge. He never shrank from an unpleasant duty. He had the courage to follow through. His oath of office was sacred. He could be moved by no consideration other than the desire to do justice according to law. His early struggles gave him understanding of the problems of the people and sympathy with the unfortunate, but they left no trace of bitterness and in no way colored his decisions. He was tolerant toward human frailty and never vindictive or vengeful. He believed in human nature. When asked whether his experience in hearing divorce cases had not shaken his confidence, he replied in the negative and added that when he thought of his own happy married life and compared his situation with that of many who came before him he often wondered at the courage and fortitude with which they bore the burdens that life had placed upon them. He also believed in the fundamental virtues and in moral principles, and he believed that these were permanent and did not change from decade to decade. He was a man of strong conscience, of delicate sensibilities, pure in heart and loyal in friendship.

When at last Justice Dolan was stricken by the illness which he knew would prove fatal, he presented an extraordinary example of courage and faith. He retained his interest in the court. He worked as long as he could and did as much as he could. His counsel was still sound and true. And now, when he is no longer with us, and while we pause here in remembrance, we may well say, as was said of another distinguished judge, "None could name a virtue that did not shine conspicuously in his life and conduct." And we may well add that he "lived his life as one who had a continuing vision of the unseen."

The motion that the Memorial be spread upon the records of the court is granted.

The court will now adjourn.


1 272 Mass. 241.
2 319 Mass. 495.

  • Office of the Reporter of Decisions  

    The Reporter of Decisions makes true reports of decisions upon all questions of law argued by counsel before the Supreme Judicial Court and the Appeals Court, and prepares them for publication, in print and electronic form, with suitable headnotes, tables of cases, and indexes.
  • Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court  

    The Supreme Judicial Court is the Commonwealth's highest appellate court.
  • Massachusetts Court System  

    The Massachusetts court system consists of the Supreme Judicial Court, the Appeals Court, the Executive Office of the Trial Court, the 7 Trial Court departments, the Massachusetts Probation Service, and the Office of Jury Commissioner.
  • Help Us Improve  with your feedback

    Please do not include personal or contact information.