Paul Julian Liacos
Associate Justice memorial
431 Mass. 1603 (2000)
A special sitting of the Supreme Judicial Court was held at Boston on June 13, 2000, at which a Memorial to the late Chief Justice Paul J. Liacos was presented.
Present: Chief Justice Marshall; Justices Abrams, Lynch, Greaney, Ireland, Spina, and Cowin; retired Chief Justices Edward F. Hennessey and Herbert P. Wilkins; and retired Justices Benjamin Kaplan, Joseph R. Nolan, and Francis P. O'Connor; and former Justice Charles Fried.
Thomas F. Reilly, Attorney General, addressed the court as follows:
May it please the court. As the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, it is my privilege and honor to present, on behalf of the bar of this Commonwealth, a memorial and tribute to the late Paul J. Liacos.
Paul Liacos served this court with great distinction for twenty years, the last seven as its twenty-second Chief Justice. During his tenure as chief, he faced, and met, an extraordinary challenge to the independence of the Commonwealth's judiciary. By his great intellect, unshakeable principles, boundless vision, and strength of character, he skillfully steered this distinguished court through those stormy times.
Paul Liacos was this court's first Chief Justice of Greek descent. He was immensely proud of his heritage, and it was more than coincidence that he would have such a passion for constitutional democracy. For it was ancient Greece that produced the concept of three branches of government; and it was Hellenic genius that first understood that a legitimate government derives its authority only from the consent of the governed.
In his first state of the judiciary speech as Chief Justice, Judge Liacos described the duty of his profession:
"We justify our privileged status as legal professionals only as we do justice for all our citizens, young and old, male or female, rich or poor, and without regard to ethnic or racial origin or to religious belief."
With this guiding principle, so directly born of his Greek heritage, the experiences of his own family, and America's system of constitutional democracy (what he called America's wondrous vision of equal justice), Paul Liacos undertook, on the eve of this court's 300th anniversary, to preserve an independent and co-equal judiciary.
Paul Liacos was a complex man. His life was a uniquely American story; but it also had elements of a Greek drama, in which he played the hero. He was born on November 20, 1929, barely thirty day after the great stock market crash, and just ten years before the world would be convulsed in a struggle against fascism. Perhaps such events were why he so clearly saw right from wrong.
Paul Liacos was the son of Greek immigrants. It was said about his mother, that she instilled in her son high standards of social behavior and a total dedication to the family. And it was his father's story, the classic immigrant's story, that would provide Judge Liacos with his determination and great love of this country . James Liacos came to America as a teenager, penniless and unable to speak the language. In time, he learned English, worked his way through law school, and then became a highly esteemed lawyer.
Paul Liacos was not a casual person. The bonds he formed were substantial and long lasting. When he formed a connection it was usually for life. He was born in Peabody, and except for his years in the military, would be Peabody's life long resident. He not only grew up there, he raised his own family there, practiced law there, and did some of his most productive opinion writing in his office at the Peabody District Court.
He entered Boston University as an undergraduate in 1946 and only forty years later did he end his B.U. affiliation. In the course of that time, he earned a bachelor's degree, magna cum laude, a law degree, magna cum laude, was an editor of the law review, and served as a renowned professor of law.
He was a member of only one law firm during the more than twenty years he was in private practice: the firm of Liacos and Liacos, where he would be partners first with his father, and then with his sister Katherine, who also would become a distinguished jurist.
Of course, the strongest and most important bond he had was with Maureen, his beloved wife of over forty years. Maureen provided perfect balance to Paul Liacos, and he admired her I greatly. She raised four wonderful children and maintained a home to them and the extended Liacos family; and as a modem woman in this transitional age, she also pursued her own interests, including a career as an accomplished photographer.
We all know that Paul Liacos had a special affinity for evidence and the law of evidence. As a result of his twin careers as practicing lawyer and law school professor, he became expert in both theory and practice, and each expertise enhanced the other.
Of course, he teamed with Barton Leach to write what every trial lawyer has for more than forty years considered essential in the court room -- his famous handbook of evidence. The book would eventually come to be known simply as "Liacos."
Throughout his career, Paul Liacos was the type of person who provoked strong feelings. The story of his elevation to the bench proves this point. In 1976, Governor Dukakis nominated Paul Liacos to the Supreme Judicial Court and believed his choice would receive high praise. The bar committee did not, however, see Paul Liacos in the same light as the Governor, and they were not subtle in their bias. To his great credit, Governor Dukakis stood by his choice. With the help of my distinguished predecessor, Frank Bellotti, and others, the Governor's Council confirmed the nomination. The ringing verdict of history has confirmed the Governor's wisdom and steadfastness.
Upon the retirement of Chief Justice Hennessey, Governor Dukakis nominated Judge Liacos for the position of chief. In contrast to his nomination as an Associate Justice, this nomination was universally acclaimed.
Judge Liacos deeply loved this court and its place in the history of jurisprudence. He knew its considerable history and considered himself a steward, charged with preserving its legacy and delivering it safely to its next chief.
At the moment of the judge's elevation to the position of chief, the State's economy was beginning its descent into a deep recession. The impact on the State budget was profound. Beginning with the fiscal 1990 budget, the first during the judge's tenure as chief, the Commonwealth's judiciary began a period of significant yearly budget cuts. The necessary, but very painful, response were significant layoffs. This was the stage for what was Paul Liacos's greatest challenge.
On the surface, the issue was money. But this challenge was about more than just money. It was about justice! In his first annual address on the state of the judiciary, he explained:
"The important point to keep in mind is that this judicial branch is not the servant of lawyers, or judges, of clerks, of non-judicial employees, but of the people. Without a functioning judicial branch there can be no constitutional democracy. Without a judicial branch there is no liberty, no peace, no order, no guarantee of fairness. Without an independent judiciary even those citizens who never go to court will be at risk in their lives, their liberty and their property. The loss of a functioning judicial branch is a loss that our society cannot survive."
Judge Liacos's response to this crisis revealed much about the man. He did not simply lobby for more money, although he did that aggressively. He did not provoke a constitutional confrontation, although this court had the authority to order the executive to pay for essential services. Instead, like the trial lawyer he had been, he looked for the facts. He was particularly intent on understanding why the people and the other branches of government had failed to appreciate the essential nature of a well-functioning judiciary.
After a year of vigorous discussion and worsening financial condition, he found substantial proof that "the legal system was failing to meet the basic needs of many of our citizens . . . ." This failure was in large part a function of the evolution of new responsibilities for the courts without any debate or discussion, and without a plan or philosophy, but there was no value in bemoaning this development. Rather, he initiated a host of actions aimed at remolding our judicial institutions to adapt to what he recognized as the "breathtakingly rapid changes in our economy, our social and family structures, and the demographics within the Commonwealth."
Judge Liacos recognized that to guide the effort of reform, the judiciary needed a vision of the future. Within the first year of his tenure as chief, the court created the Chief Justice's Commission on the future of the courts, ably led by David Sargent, who will address you shortly. In 1992, the commission reported to the court and identified six themes vital to its vision of a relevant judiciary serving the needs of the people. Time has demonstrated the accuracy of that vision, with its focus on the need to be welcoming and responsive to an ever more diverse population.
Guided by the future commission, the court would undertake two significant reforms: it would modernize; and it would adapt to the changing concept of justice. By doing these things, it was the judge's hope that the judiciary would build a lasting constituency among the people.
The effort to modernize had many components. The courts needed to adopt modern management practices, to upgrade their facilities, and to install advanced information systems. Judge Liacos achieved substantial progress in each of these areas. In 1993, court reform legislation became effective and placed the tools and authority for strong central management in the position of Chief Justice for Administration and Management. This legislation would mark, at least in part, the restoration of the Court's authority to manage its appropriation.
In 1992, the Legislature approved a capital outlay to construct a new Suffolk County court house, which fittingly will be dedicated next week to honor the only African-American to hold Statewide office, my distinguished predecessor, Edward Brooke. During Paul Liacos's tenure as chief there would be new or renovated court houses in Lawrence, Fall River, Worcester, Chelsea, and most of the neighborhoods of Boston.
And a 1994 capital outlay would permit a major investment by the courts in up-to-date information management systems.
The second group of reforms undertaken in the Liacos years related to the judge's belief that, in the late twentieth century, justice was not a static concept. He reasoned that, to adapt effectively, the courts would need to face society's most difficult problems with candor and honesty. The projects and committees he established reflect that he did just that. Let me mention a few.
The Commission to Study Racial and Ethnic Bias analyzed the difficult problem of how our system of justice treats minorities. The commission examined nine areas, including language barriers, juries and jury pools, sentencing, and the appointment of judges, and made specific, practical recommendations to hasten the day when the promise of equal justice will be fulfilled.
The Committee on Gender Equality continued the effort to eradicate gender bias in the judiciary's decision-making, employment, and treatment of litigants. Judge Liacos was proud of the progress of the courts in this area. He would have been prouder still to have seen the current prominence of women in positions of court leadership.
The Liacos years saw a number of innovations aimed at restoring a connection between the courts and the people. This court began to travel and had formal sittings in Plymouth and Worcester. The judge created the Judicial Youth Corps, which brings high school students to the court for study and service. He also supported the Franklin County Futures Lab Task Force, to explore how neighborhood justice centers might be structured and formed.
Considering the magnitude of the challenges the judge faced when he became chief, his administrative accomplishments were extraordinary. With the help of many, he preserved the judiciary's independence, strengthened its authority, and helped it adapt to the changing demands of justice.
Today, we remember not only Paul Liacos as an enlightened and effective administrator, but also Paul Liacos as an exemplary jurist, who created a body of law that will continue to affect the lives of our citizenry, and influence the courts in other jurisdictions, well into the future.
The chief introduced a distinct approach to judging. He recognized that courts were being asked to decide matters of fundamental importance to the human condition, that in the late twentieth century these matters were coming to the courts with increasing frequency because of the inability of other social and political institutions to resolve certain difficult and troubling issues. In addressing these issues, the judge was not satisfied to employ a mechanical application of legal doctrine. Rather, he sought new ideas, new perspectives, and in so doing, he relied on the best ideas in the history of human thought, spirit and imagination. His opinions were often peppered with references to great thinkers throughout history. Perhaps the best example of his creative decision-making was his concurrence in the death penalty case, District Attorney v. Watson. In order to expound on the particular cruelty of advance knowledge of certain death, the judge quoted Camus, Aristotle, Shakespeare, Sartre, and Dostoyevsky.
On the occasion of the judge's selection in 1982 as the nation's outstanding State appellate judge, his former law clerks presented him with a representative collection of his opinions. In the foreword, one of his former clerks, Paul Nemser, wrote this about the judge's developing body of work:
"[His opinions] ring with energy, history, humor, real knowledge of real knowledge of real institutions, penetrating analysis, synthesizing will, an imagination balanced on the point at which what is becomes what can be. They have vision, and they have design. They teach, explain and persuade. Sometimes they sing.
"[His opinions] are scholarly, but they are grounded in experience. They perpetuate ideals, but work in the practical world. They are generous without yielding in principle and tough without failing in mercy. They value the past at the moment they change it, and change outworn laws at justice's command."
Paul Liacos authored over 800 opinions. Throughout this body of work, and over the sweep of his twenty years on the bench, he understood that the magnificence of our constitutional system has one overriding purpose: the preservation of individual freedom and human dignity.
Judge Liacos's commitment to individual freedom is reflected in the trend he often led to find greater protections of individual freedom in the State Constitution than found in its Federal counterpart. Cases in which he expounded on the reach of the State Constitution include Commonwealth v. Bergstrom, 402 Mass. 534 (1988), which held that the presentation of child witness testimony by electronic means outside the physical presence of the defendant and jury violated the State Constitution's right "to meet the witnesses . . . face to face . . ."; Jenkins v. Chief Justice of the Dist. Court Dept, 416 Mass. 221 (1993), which held that article 14 of the Declaration of Rights requires that a warrantless arrest be followed by a judicial determination of probable cause no later than reasonably necessary and in no event beyond twenty-four hours; and Attorney Gen. v. Colleton, 387 Mass. 790 (1982), which held that under State law the privilege against self incrimination may be displaced only on a grant of transactional immunity.
Judge Liacos's concern for human dignity is best illustrated by his opinions in cases involving the right to die. In Superintendent of Belchertown State Sch. v. Saikewicz, 373 Mass. 728 (1977), a case heard early in Judge Liacos's tenure, the court confronted the question whether a probate judge could order that chemotherapy be withheld from a terminally ill ward of the State, who was profoundly retarded. The opinion written by Judge Liacos reflects his great humanity. In first addressing whether a citizen of the Commonwealth had the right to refuse medical treatment when terminally ill, the judge wrote:
"The constitutional right to privacy . . . is an expression of the sanctity of individual free choice and self-determination as fundamental constituents of life. The value of life as so perceived is lessened not by a decision to refuse treatment, but by the failure to allow a competent human being the right of choice."
After concluding that there exists a right to decline extraordinary treatment, the judge addressed a second and perhaps more challenging question: whether a profoundly mentally retarded individual had that same right. It was the resolution of this issue that reflects the depth of Judge Liacos's belief in the fundamental dignity of all human beings. He wrote:
"To protect the incompetent person within its power, the state must recognize the dignity and worth of such a person and afford to that person the same panoply of rights and choices it recognizes in competent persons."
The final issue to be addressed: if an incompetent has the choice to decline treatment, what considerations should enter into the decision-making process? Judge Liacos recognized the essential uniqueness of each human being when he concluded that "the primary test is subjective in nature -- that is, the goal is to determine with as much accuracy as possible the wants and needs of the individual involved." Significantly, in making this determination, Judge Liacos vehemently disapproved of an analysis that would equate the value of life with an individual's quality of life. Accordingly, the process could not consider Mr. Saikewicz's life less worthy by reason of his retardation.
In Brophy v. New England Sinai Hosp., Inc., 398 Mass. 417 (1986), the Court faced perhaps an even more difficult question than in Saikewicz. As the result of an aneurysm, Paul Brophy, a previously robust fire fighter and emergency medical technician employed by the town of Easton, was left in a persistent vegetative state. He was not terminally ill and could be maintained indefinitely by an artificial device, surgically inserted, known as a g-tube, through which he would receive nutrition and hydration. The question: did Mr. Brophy have the right to remove the g-tube? In another discussion that elevated the cause of human dignity, Judge Liacos observed that "the distinction between withholding and withdrawing treatment has no moral significance." He therefore concluded that, even in these ever more ordinary circumstances, the State's interest in the preservation of life did not overcome Mr. Brophy's right to discontinue treatment.
Of all his written opinions, Judge Liacos was proudest of the opinion in Commonwealth v. Soares, 377 Mass. 461 (1979). The case involved the murder of a Harvard student on lower Boylston Street in the city of Boston. The defendants in the case were three African-Americans. In the course of jury selection, the prosecutor exercised his peremptory challenges to exclude all African-Americans from the jury panel. The result was a racially homogenous jury, which ultimately convicted all three defendants of murder in the first degree. The United States Supreme Court had established a standard under the Federal Constitution that effectively insulated the use of peremptories on the basis of race. Nevertheless, Judge Liacos recognized, in the first of many such opinions, that the State Constitution provided greater protection of individual liberty than the Federal Constitution. He held that article 12 of the Declaration of Rights prohibits the "use of peremptory challenges to exclude prospective jurors solely by virtue of their membership in, or affiliation with, particular, defined groupings in the community." In reaching this conclusion, he made a visionary observation about decision-making in a democracy: "it is [the] diversity of opinion among individuals, some of whose concepts may well have been influenced by their group affiliations, which is envisioned when we refer to 'diffused impartiality.' No human being is wholly free of the interests and preferences which are the product of his cultural, family, and community experience. Nowhere is the dynamic commingling of the ideas and biases of such individuals more essential than inside the jury room."
I believe that the judge was proud of what the court did in Soares for three reasons. First, Soares affected every trial, civil and criminal, in the Commonwealth and assured the full participation in those trials of all elements of the Commonwealth's citizenry. Second, eight years later, the United States Supreme Court, citing Soares, reversed itself and prohibited the race-based use of peremptories as a matter of Federal law; Soares therefore now affects every criminal trial in the country. And third, the Soares decision was issued at a time when racial tensions in the city of Boston were high and few public officials had taken an affirmative stand against racism. In that setting, the Soares decision became a powerful symbol.
There was one more consequence of the Soares decision that confirmed its essential wisdom. On retrial before a diverse jury, two of the three defendants were acquitted of all charges and the third was convicted of manslaughter only.
Judge Liacos retired from this court at the end of its term in 1996. It was three years before what would have been his mandatory retirement. The reasons for his early departure are telling. First and foremost, he wished to devote more time to his beloved wife, Maureen, and their family, which was growing with grandchildren. There was another reason. He knew that due to the composition of the court at the time, there would be a transition involving four seats within a thirteen-month span. He did not foresee that Justice Fried would also retire, thereby opening the court to five new faces. He thought such a transformation might invite a future attack on the court's independence. He therefore tendered his resignation, providing for the tenure of Herbert Wilkins as chief, and allowing for a new judge to develop important experience before the great turnover we are now experiencing. That new judge was of course you, Madame Chief Justice. Paul Liacos would have enjoyed how well his plan worked, and we are fortunate for this additional example of his great foresight.
Paul Liacos died on May 6, 1999. He is survived by Maureen, his wife of more than forty years, by his sons James, Mark, and Gregory, by his daughter Diana, and by five grandchildren. He also leaves his dear sister, Katherine, and her children, Jonathan and Jennifer.
By values, by vision, by strength of character, Paul Liacos was the right person to lead this court through one of its most trying times and to so well prepare it for the challenging future that is now upon us. He loved this court, this Commonwealth, and this country, and all are better because of him.
Judge Liacos exhorted the legal profession to "do justice for all our citizens, young and old, male or female, rich or poor, and without regard to ethnic or racial origin or to religious belief." And what he urged on others, he achieved himself. In this, he lived the imperative of the prophet Micah, "to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."
On behalf of the bar of the Commonwealth, I respectfully move that this Memorial be spread on the records of this court.
David J. Sargent, Esquire, addressed the court as follows:
May it please the court. To summarize the life of any person is a difficult task, and one which each of us must undertake from our own perspective. But in the case of Paul J. Liacos, the task is compounded by his extraordinary nature, for he was one of the most exceptional people that I have ever known.
Winston Churchill once said, "what we get is how we make a living, but what we give is how we make a life." If that be the measure, then Paul Liacos's life was rich beyond description. As an extraordinary law school professor, gifted author, acclaimed scholar, internationally known trial lawyer, and brilliant jurist, he gave everything he had to every undertaking, obligation, commitment, and relationship. There was nothing halfway or equivocal about him. And his measure as a caring, sensitive, thoroughly delightful human being was equally compelling.
Totally devoted to his wife Maureen and his family and his extended family of countless friends, he had a passion for people that was unsurpassed. He was frequently an anchor to the wind for those of us less strong.
He was the first born child of an immigrant couple from Greece. And they had a profound effect upon every aspect of his life. His father was the first Greek-American ever to be admitted to the bar of Massachusetts. And his parents by their love and their example instilled in Paul the firm belief that family was the cornerstone of a full life.
As members of a small ethnic community that had known adversity, they instilled in him a deep respect and tolerance for people who are different and compassion for those less fortunate and those without a voice.
It was from his parents that he acquired his great reverence and love of education that would last him a lifetime. He received his AB degree from Boston University in 1950 magna cum laude, his LLB in 1952 from Boston University Law School magna cum laude, that same year in which he was admitted to the bar, and an LLM from Harvard University Law School in 1953.
It is not surprising that many great jurists were once great trial lawyers, and so it was with Paul. He began his days as a litigator in the Judge Advocate General's Corps for the United States Air Force. And this was followed by more than twenty years of a very active practice as a distinguished and able trial lawyer practicing with his father and his sister. What is surprising is that, despite this very extensive career as a trial lawyer, he simultaneously served as a prominent member of the resident faculty of Boston University Law School. He quickly established, by his great ability, his trial experience, and his scholarly pursuits, a reputation as an outstanding classroom teacher. A reputation as one of the country's leading authorities on the laws of evidence. And the author of the definitive treatise on the laws of evidence in Massachusetts.
He was appointed to this court as an Associate Justice in 1976. And served in that capacity until his appointment as Chief Justice in 1989. On a court that is legendary for powerful jurists, few can match his record of influence over such a long period of time. He was a visionary who sought constant improvement in the judicial system and the ability to anticipate the needs of the future.
It is certainly difficult to categorize or label a jurist as to ideology and I will refrain from attempting to do so. But he would never forgive me if I did not point out that, on the issue of civil rights, he was a flaming liberal. And the Bill of Rights was his second bible. He was a man who was personally aggrieved by the injustices of this world and the plight of society's afflicted. He was a man of enormous talent who gave all of his heart, body, and soul to the judicial system of this Commonwealth and his beloved Supreme Judicial Court, which he led with such pride and great ability.
He was a man of principle and self-discipline. And when his friends hear words such as integrity, loyalty, honesty, decency, compassion, dedication, and justice, they know that these are not just pious platitudes that are sometimes over used, but rather these were Paul's intimate friends, his constant companions, the guide posts by which he lived his entire life.
From my perspective as a lawyer, he has my greatest admiration and respect for being everything that a noble profession would like to offer to the world. As my friend, he had my love for being everything that a friend can be.
Oliver Wendell Holmes on the commons in Cambridge once admonished the citizenry that as life is action and passion, it is required of man that he should partake of the passions and the actions of his time, at the peril of being judged not to have lived. Let it be recorded that Paul Liacos lived and he lived life well and he lived it fully. And all of us and all of those whose lives he touched are the richer for it.
This confidante of the mighty and defender of the weak, this courageous judicial fighter and warm compassionate friend, this highly public person and highly private family man, made a great mark upon our times. Thank you.
Sarah Robinson, Esquire, addressed the court as follows:
May it please the Court. I am Sarah Robinson and I was law clerk to Chief Justice Liacos -- then Justice Liacos - in 1984 to 1985, and I was also privileged to work with him in the early 1990's. I know that I speak for many if not all of the Justice's forty odd clerks when I say that clerking for him was a "highpoint" of our careers. For it was a chance to see up close his brilliance as a jurist, his capacity to cut to the heart of the matter, his vast and deep knowledge of the law, and his enjoyment of the collegial process and his colleagues. But for most of us, including me, clerking for the "Justice" or the "Chief," as we called him, was more than even all that: for to be one of Justice Liacos's law clerks was to be welcomed into a family. He taught us, tested us, loved us, and stuck by us.
Each of us was different -- he made a point of that! -- but he brought us all into the fold and brought his powerful personality to bear on us as individuals. He got to know us, and we him, over long lunches: at Dini's, at Emperor of China, at Cafe Marliave, and at the Hi-Spot. There, as always, he would teach by example: we watched him banter with waitresses and maitre d's, ask after families, and bestow praise for a well cooked meal. There, too, he would advise on careers, deliver gentle but pointed criticism (some of us did too much research, others not enough), and later urge us (or at least me) to choose marriage. He would tell us stories about his family, about the court, about law practice, about trips to Greece. And he would edify: I won't ever forget the look on his face when he realized the depth of my ignorance on historical topics and began in on a disquisition on the split in the Church.
We law clerks participated in the happy ritual of an annual summer gathering at the Justice's home in Peabody. The initiation rite -- undertaken by each new pair of clerks -- was a trip to the Hilltop Steakhouse on Route I to buy enough meat to feed the growing crowd. The event was a wonderful mingling of the Justice's family -- his wife, children, and later his grandchildren; his sister and her children -- and his law clerks, their significant others, spouses, and children. Invariably it was a warm and sunny afternoon and Mrs. Liacos's flowers stood tall and colorful in the garden. The Justice preferred the chaise lounge; semi-reclined, he would inquire into our lives, dispense advice, admire our children, and laugh at our jokes.
Justice Liacos was a realist and an idealist. He was canny, he loved strategy, and he enjoyed political challenge. But it was all to a purpose; it was never for its own sake. He believed passionately in the importance of an independent judiciary, in the judiciary as a truly "coequal" branch of government. He believed, above all, in the humanity of every single human being, and in the judiciary's special responsibility to recognize, honor, and protect that humanity. These ideals were not simply the stuff of speeches; they were the animating force behind the opinions he wrote, the commissions he set up, the bills he urged the Legislature to pass. Those of us fortunate to work with him saw him tacking back and forth between the minutiae of the moment and the vision in his mind and heart.
It was a sense that the Justice understood himself to be participating in a process that was ongoing -- and without end -- of constructing and maintaining a republican form of government. His companions in this task reached across time. An avid reader of history, he talked of John Adams (and Thomas Jefferson), two of his favorites, as if he knew them. He spoke of them as human beings, brilliant, and accomplished beyond measure, but human nonetheless, and he took inspiration from their efforts. The chief was enormously proud that Massachusetts's 1780 constitution was -- as he was so fond of repeating -- the oldest continuously effective written constitution in the Western hemisphere, if not the world, and had been a model for the United States Constitution. But he knew that the work of building institutions for a free society in the Commonwealth was not done, but ongoing. He was never complacent. He never let his pride block his view of inequities in the present, or dull his efforts to shrink those inequities.
We miss him terribly and can't believe that he's gone. But his voice and his image remain with us. When troubled, we ask, "What would Justice Liacos do?" And when we ask that, we become larger, wiser, fiercer, more generous, and we set our eyes on the task ahead. Thank you, Chief Justice Liacos.
Justice Neil L. Lynch, speaking for the court, responded as follows:
As I thought about what I wish to say today, I assumed you would hear much about the intellect and scholarship of this great judge. I join unreservedly in these views. You have heard of a career dedicated to protecting the rights of the less fortunate members of society. You have heard of a judge who wrote with compassion, even for convicted murders. You were reminded that he led this court, the first court in the nation, to protect incompetent persons from highly invasive and often futile medical procedures. And I am sure everyone here is aware of his role in protecting the average citizen from the inroads of oppressive government and in supporting an independent judiciary as a first line of defense in support of liberty.
Without wishing to denigrate from the importance and truth of these views, I wish to focus my remarks on the humanity of the man.
My first contact with Paul Liacos occurred shortly after I was nominated for the position of Associate Justice. Although we had never met and I am sure he was apprehensive about my legal philosophy, he took the time to write to me, welcoming me to the court and offering his assistance. Now the Justices of this court have been unstinting in their support of me during my tenure. The collegiality of this court is unsurpassed. I was welcomed by all and accepted without reservation. Yet, if memory serves, Paul was the only one to write a letter of welcome, and, try as I have to emulate the welcome he gave to me when new Justices joined the court, I fear that I have taken the easier way and settled for a phone call.
Over the years of my practice I became well acquainted with the Doulas family that owned and operated Jimmy's Harborside. Soon after my appointment to this court I invited Paul to join me for lunch at Jimmy's. Paul was much too gracious to tell me that he was well known there. We laughed many times afterward at the way my triumphant return was overshadowed by the presence of my dining companion, the great Greek-American scholar and jurist, who spoke fluent Greek. I fear he was always slightly embarrassed by the attention he received, feeling he had rained on my parade.
In my early years on the court he was my mentor, especially in criminal law where his experience had been great and mine superficial. Most of my criminal law experience comes from getting my children's friends out of minor scrapes. Because of my lack of sophistication in this area, my early drafts tended to be quite verbose. He helped me improve my technique immeasurably by pointing out one day, "Neil, you don't have to reinvent the wheel in every opinion." My opinions became much shorter after that.
Anyone who follows the opinions of this court knows that Paul and I did not always agree. Yet, these differences in our views about the way the law should be interpreted or applied never interfered with our professional or personal relationships. Occasionally he would smile at something I had said or written in opposition to his view. In one such case the court had upheld an administrative regulation limiting the amount of a chemical that, in the manufacturing process, finds its way into a certain food product. The amount prohibited, I was able to point out in my dissent, was the equivalent of "one crouton in a 50,000 ton salad." Although he was on the other side of that decision, he loved to quote that phrase.
Although he was of a quiet and gentle nature, he was fearless in defense of what he believed to be right. He not only stood toe-to-toe with certain members of the Legislature in order to preserve an independent judiciary, but also fought to preserve his own reputation in the face of unsupported rumors and innuendo when he could have quietly remained aloof and pursued a very successful and remunerative career. He even stood up to the generals of the Greek junta at the risk of his personal safety and in their own country.
He was, in short, a man for all seasons, quiet yet determined, open to persuasive argument but unwavering in defense of what he believed. I have read more than once of the imperious and aloof Paul Liacos. I served with Paul on this court for more than fifteen years and I know that description to be as far off the mark as any can be.
We came from different backgrounds, he and I. Our religion, ethnicity, and political philosophy were dissimilar. We were educated at different schools and universities, and our practice of law was in entirely different areas of specialization. Yet we became friends. I learned that he was a kind and a gentle man who cared about people. He loved his family and his eyes glistened when he talked about falling in love with his wife Maureen and taking her away from her Irish Midwestern roots to bring her to Boston where she became a much loved part of an expanded Greek-American family.
He shared with me an affinity for good food and wine, and we spent many pleasant evenings with our wives around a dinner table, filled with laughter and good fellowship, discussing politics, law, and the way of the world.
The imperious and elitist Paul Liacos was a man I did not know, and, as far as I am concerned, someone who did not exist. I confess, however, that beneath his sometimes austere exterior, I detected more than a little Zorba.
Paul Liacos was a credit to his family, of which he was so proud, and the institutions that he served with distinction -- the United States Air Force, Boston University, and, of course, the Supreme Judicial Court.
More importantly to me, he was a true friend from whom I learned much. I miss him.