Joseph P. Warner was born in Boston on January 17, 1937. He graduated from Boston College, cum laude, in 1958 and from Boston College Law School, cum laude, in 1961. He began his legal career as a law clerk to Justice Arthur Whittemore of the Supreme Judicial Court. A year later, he joined the Boston law firm of Hemenway and Barnes, where he became a partner and specialized in probate court practice.
In 1973, Governor Frank Sargent appointed Chief Justice Warner to the Probate Court in Suffolk County, and in 1982 Governor Edward King named him an associate justice of the Appeals Court. Seven years later, Governor Michael Dukakis appointed him chief justice of the Appeals Court. He took the oath of office as the Court's third chief justice on December 28, 1989. During his eighteen years on the Appeals Court, Chief Justice Warner wrote 1,163 decisions, of which 207 were signed opinions, 79 were rescript opinions, and 877 were unpublished decisions.
Chief Justice Warner was an active leader of the Flaschner Judicial Institute, which was created in 1978 to educate and train the Commonwealth's judges. He was also a very active alumnus of Boston College, serving as president of its Alumni Association and as chair of the Boston College Estate Planning Council. In 1990, he was given the St. Thomas More Award from the Boston College Alumni Association. Chief Justice Warner died on June 15, 2002. He left his wife of forty-two years, Jane Hanron Warner; three children; and several grandchildren.
The Appeals Court Memorial to Chief Justice Warner may be found at 58 Mass. App. Ct. 1115 (2003).