Richard Ammi Cutter was born in Salem and attended Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He entered private practice, briefly for Goodwin Procter and then at the firm now known as Edwards, Wildman, Palmer. He spent three years in the Massachusetts Attorney General's office and took an extended military leave during World War II. During that time, Justice Cutter served in the legal branch at the Pentagon and as an aide to the assistant secretary of war. He played a role in shaping the military governance of Germany and Japan immediately after the war and conducted research leading up to the prosecution of war crimes before international tribunals.
He returned to private practice before being appointed to the Supreme Judicial Court by Governor Christian Herter in 1956. Justice Cutter retired from that court in 1972, but in 1980 began a decade-long tenure as a recall justice of the Appeals Court, serving ably into his eighties before retiring in 1990. Justice Cutter was an active member of the American Law Institute for over fifty years, holding numerous offices up to and including president and served on numerous committees. In between his judicial posts, the Supreme Court of the United States appointed him as a special master in a dispute between New York and Vermont over the pollution of Lake Champlain (see Vermont v. New York, 417 U.S. 270, 274 (1974)). He and his wife, Helen, had three children. He died on November 28, 1993.
The Supreme Judicial Court's Memorial to Justice Cutter may be found at 418 Mass. 1603 (1994).