Born in Worcester and raised in Springfield, Justice McDonough graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1977 with a Bachelor of the Arts in History. He then earned his Juris Doctor from Western New England College School of Law in 1981, graduating magna cum laude.
While in law school Justice McDonough qualified for the Law Review and served as a Student Law Clerk at the Springfield law firm of Egan, Flanagan & Cohen, P.C. and, upon graduation, continued with that firm as an associate attorney. He became a partner in the firm in 1987 and served three terms as its Managing Partner. His diverse practice included civil rights law, general liability issues, premises liability, prison law, discrimination, insurance law, medical malpractice, employment law and personal injury law. He was lead or sole trial counsel in numerous Superior Court trials throughout the Commonwealth as well as a number of United States District Court trials. He also served as appellate counsel, representing parties in this Court, the Supreme Judicial Court, the United States First Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of the United States. In 2013, Justice McDonough was appointed by Governor Deval Patrick as an Associate Justice of the Massachusetts Superior Court and, in addition to presiding as a trial judge over serious criminal felony and major civil actions, was appointed Regional Administrative Justice for Western Massachusetts (Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin and Berkshire Counties), and to Superior Court Committees on Implicit Racial Bias, Public Outreach, Civil Rules, Technology and the Attorney Conducted Panel Voir Dire Pilot Project.
Justice McDonough has been active both in education and a number of professional associations. In 2004 he was admitted to Fellowship in the American College of Trial Lawyers, and remains a Judicial Fellow. He was a member of the Hampden County and Massachusetts Bar Associations. He has had a long career as an adjunct faculty member first at Elms College and then at Bay Path University. Additionally, he has been active in his community serving as a board member of Interfaith Homes of Longmeadow providing senior housing, as chair and member of his parish council, and as a youth baseball, football and basketball coach. He is married (Melissa) and has six children.
Appointed by Governor Charles Baker, Justice McDonough joined the court on September 13, 2017. He returned to service on the Superior Court in August of 2020.