– John J. Curtin, Jr., a past president of the Boston and American Bar
associations, a major player in protecting federal funding for legal aid from
politically-motivated attacks, and a prime mover in the creation of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, will
receive the Boston Bar Association's
first Lifetime Achievement Award at the BBA's Law Day Dinner on May 25 at the
Westin, Copley Place.
Throughout his life and lengthy
career at Bingham McCutchen, Curtin has
combined a formidable career as a trial lawyer with a broad range of civic and
philanthropic activities having significant impacts.
"Jack Curtin is the ultimate
citizen lawyer," said Boston Bar Association Jack Regan. "Jack's colleagues in
Boston and nationally have long regarded him as a major leaguer - - the gold
standard for role models in the legal profession."
Curtin was president of the
Boston Bar Association when President Ronald Reagan proposed zero funding for
the Legal Services Corporation. Curtin
responded by appealing to his Boston colleagues to join him in a march on
Capitol Hill, organized by the American Bar
Association in protest of the cut. While bar associations from other cities
had delegations of one or two lawyers, Curtin arrived with a group that became
known as the "Gang of 11."
Curtin's call to action proved a
pivotal moment in cementing the collaboration between the private bar and legal
services – while helping to restore 75 percent of what President Reagan had
proposed cutting. Upon returning to Boston, Curtin set about implementing his
vision for making up for the 25% loss by advocating for state funding of civil
legal aid, expanding pro bono, and offering free training so that members of the
private bar could do more to help those unable to afford a lawyer. The
result was the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation.
By 1990, Curtin had become
President of the American Bar Association. Now, in addition to fighting for
federal funding for legal aid, he found himself battling, promoting, and
defending everything that the legal profession stands for.
In 1991, when then Vice President
Dan Quayle went before the ABA to blame lawyers for hurting America's
competitiveness, Curtin's rebuttal was quoted in The New York Times: "Anybody
who believes a better day dawns when lawyers are eliminated bears the burden of
explaining who will take their place."
Known for their generosity,
Curtin and his wife, Mary Daly Curtin, have focused their philanthropic efforts
on access to justice for the needy. The Mary Daly Curtin and John J. Curtin, Jr.
Center at Boston College Law School – provides space to student organizations
and stipends to students doing public interest work. The couple also funds The
John J. Curtin Fund at the ABA, providing public interest fellowships for
Still practicing law at Bingham,
where he is of counsel, Curtin has taught trial advocacy at Boston College Law
School for more than 30 years. Recently he began sharing his teaching duties
with his son, Kevin, a Senior Supervisor in the Appeals and Training Bureau of
Middlesex County District Attorney Gerry Leone.
Curtin is a longtime Fellow of
the American College
of Trial Lawyers and for many years served as Chair of the Section on
Litigation of the American Bar Association.