Members of the Boston Bar Association are presenting a Lifetime Achievement Award to Wellesley lawyer Jack Curtin, 77, for his decades of contribution to the legal profession, his community and his country.
"Jack is a legend. He exemplifies the ideals we all had when we entered the legal profession," said Jack Regan, president of the Boston Bar Association, when bestowing the award. "This Lifetime Achievement Award may be given to others in the future, but the standings for receiving it will be very high because of the example set by Jack Curtin."
Born in Dedham, Curtin attended Boston College and Georgetown Law School and practiced for years as a member of the U.S. Justice Department. He returned to Massachusetts to prosecute a prominent case during the Kennedy administration to prosecute the prominent Communist conspiracy case U.S. v. Otis Archer Hood; the case was later thrown out of court on constitutional grounds.
"That was one of the three times I've been a prosecutor; I've also worked with the U.S. Department of Justice's Antitrust Division and was appointed a Special Assistant Attorney General to handle appeals on the Small Loans case in the 1980s, one of the longest trials in the history of Massachusetts," Curtin said in an interview. Curtin said he had also served as a civil plaintiff and as defense counsel in complex cases.
"I'm especially proud of a case I tried in the U.S. Attorney's Office from 1961 to 1963, which dealt with the the colonel in charge of the Boston Marine Corps Reserve Unit attempting to bribe his lieutenant colonel," Curtin said. "The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, and I'm proud to say we achieved a conviction."
Curtin served as President of the Boston Bar Association in the 1980s and was elected President of the American Bar Association in 1991. He has also been active in local politics for the last 40 years, serving as a member of the Wellesley Town Meeting, a member of the Wellesley Advisory Committee, President of the Association of Town Finance Committee, and was selected to serve on the Local Government Advisory Committee by former governor Michael Dukakis.
He was Wellesley's town moderator for 4 years.
"I'm not as active in town activities these days; I'm more focused on other things, like my grandkids and teaching at Boston College," Curtin (cq) said. "I've been teaching there since 1965, and recently I started team teaching classes with my son, Kevin, who is an assistant district attorney in Middlesex County."
Another of Curtin's sons, Joseph, is a partner at the Boston Law Firm Mintz Levin. Curtin and his wife, Mary, a former teacher, have five children and 13 grandchildren.
Curtin is still active in ensuring equal access to legal services for people across the economic spectrum, serving as director of Appleseed legal support services and the National Consumer Law Center. He argued successfully for the preservation of funding for the U.S. Legal Services Corporation, and helped establish the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation. He has also been active in local philanthropy, donating funds for the Mary Daly Curtin and John J. Curtin, Jr. Center at Boston College Law School and establishing the John J. Curtin Fund to provide fellowships for lawyers fighting homelessness.
"Curtin's accomplishments are so great that it really necessitated us creating this award for him," said Bonnie Sashin, communications director for the Boston Bar Association. "He has contributed so much to both his profession and his community, and he's a real gentleman. He casts a long shadow."
Sarah Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.