A strong-willed daughter of a Colombian immigrant, the Hon.
Angela M. Ordoñez took advantage of all opportunities along the way
to reach her current position at Norfolk Probate and Family Court,
where she has served as associate justice since 2003.
Ordoñez is highly respected by her colleagues on the bench and
bar alike. She is described as a "hands-on" judge who is "amazingly
organized," always up on things and ready to get things done.
This year, MBA President Valerie A. Yarashus named Ordoñez
co-chair of the association's Diversity Task Force. Like with all
her professional endeavors, Ordoñez has hit the ground running and
she and co-chair April English, an assistant attorney general, have
orchestrated broad-based efforts to diversify future generations of
Massachusetts bar practitioners.
Her journey to the law
Ordoñez was raised by her single mother and grandmother and
taught herself English by the time she was four. Ordoñez' favorite
childhood pastime of watching television and movies helped refine
her English and provided her with the initial inspiration to pursue
law as a career.
The 1978 film "And Justice for All" was her favorite. She was
fascinated by Al Pacino's character and how he decided to go
against the seemingly insurmountable trail of corruption. "It
really blew away my limited perceptions of what you could do as a
Hungry to learn more about the law as a teenager, but naïve as
to how, she found her chance to do so unexpectedly. Ordoñez heard
her favorite teacher, Mrs. Marion Goodman, refer to her husband as
a lawyer. She stayed after class and asked Goodman if her husband
would mind meeting with her. Attorney Elliott Goodman agreed, and
after meeting the bright teenager, helped her secure a volunteer
role in the Natick Probation Department.
Goodman recalls that he was "quite impressed" by Ordoñez. "She
didn't come in just looking for a job. She was really searching for
what she might want to do with a career in law," he said.
Through that pivotal volunteer opportunity, Ordoñez developed
great contacts and enjoyed what she described as "a rich experience
to receive an insider's view of the court system."
Although she found the work of probation officers fascinating,
she ultimately took the advice of her early mentors and attended
Northeastern University School of Law.
Ordoñez had been told that law school could be all-consuming, so
she decided to engage in other experiences to keep her grounded
during her first year. She volunteered at Massachusetts General
Hospital's pediatric cancer unit. In college, she also became a
volunteer for the Battered Women's Hotline. With both, she made a
positive impact and gained a welcomed diversion to her studies.
After obtaining her law degree in 1989 and taking the bar,
Ordoñez joined the Family Law Unit with Greater Boston Legal
Services and worked there for nearly four years. After spending
many hours trying cases in the Suffolk County Probate Court, she
was approached by one of the clerks there regarding openings for
assistant register positions.
"My initial response was, 'But I'm happy with what I'm doing,'"
said Ordonez, who ultimately realized this was an opportunity she
couldn't let pass by. Ordoñez went on to spend seven years in the
clerk's office, where she gained a variety of professional contacts
and mentors who would help and encourage her to apply for a
On her birthday in 1998, Ordoñez learned that she made a short
list of serious contenders for a seat on the bench. Sixteen months
later, Ordoñez was nominated by then Gov. A. Paul Cellucci and Lt.
Gov. Jane Swift.
At age 37, Ordoñez was sworn in as the first member of the
Massachusetts judiciary to be both Hispanic and openly gay. She was
seated as an associate judge in the Nantucket Probate Court and
took great pride in her "ability to make my mom and grandmother
proud beyond their dreams." Joining her family members in the
audience that afternoon were Ordoñez' many colleagues and friends,
including Mr. and Mrs. Goodman, whom she recognized in her
After serving on the bench in Nantucket for several years, she
was appointed to the Norfolk Probate and Family Court in 2008. For
that ceremony, Ordoñez had requested that Gov. Deval Patrick
consider holding it in the Norfolk Probate and Family Court in
Canton. She also asked him to alter the official ceremony to
accommodate more time for court employees and their families to
meet with and have photographs taken with the governor.
"Probation officers were there with their children," said
Patricia Gorman, from Gorman and Greenberg in Canton and
president-elect of the Massachusetts Association of Women Lawyers.
Also on hand was Probate and Family Court Chief Justice Paula M.
Carey, who first worked with Ordoñez when Carey practiced law and
Ordoñez was an assistant register. "Judge Ordoñez has always had a
strong commitment to the system and the public we serve," said
Carey at the 2008 ceremony.
"She treats all individuals - litigants, lawyers and staff -
with courtesy and dignity," said Carey.
Today, like in 2008, Carey credits Ordoñez as one of the
"shining stars on the Probate and Family Court bench."
A long-awaited victory
Nine years after she had first made the initial transition from
the bar to the bench, Ordoñez realized one of her proudest
professional moments. In April 2009, Kurvin Richardson was found
guilty of first degree murder in the homicide of Noemi Roman.
While at GBLS, Ordoñez had represented Roman's parents, who
sought custody of Roman's son following her death. Sergio Roman was
only a toddler when his mother was murdered in 1990. Roman was
beaten and stabbed and left to die while her two-year-old clung to
her lifeless body.
Ordoñez explained that the horrific case always haunted her and
she did whatever she could to keep investigators focused on solving
this heinous crime. Closure came for Roman's family, but also for
Ordoñez, with Richardson's conviction nearly two decades following
Her persistence to keep investigators focused on this case is
one of the accolades for which Ordoñez will be honored in June with
the Massachusetts Association of Women Lawyers Distinguished Jurist
Award. Gorman remarked that Ordoñez' work with that case displayed
a remarkable dedication to the family of Roman and really
epitomized Ordoñez' character and "what you can really do with a
Raising the bar
She will no doubt continue to exhibit that character with her
latest volunteer endeavor with the MBA's Diversity Task Force.
Among the many efforts of the task force, she and co-chair English
(see profile, p. 11) are particularly focused on the success of the
Tiered Community Mentor Program.
The program enlists an innovative approach that teams up
practicing minority attorneys with diverse students in high school,
college and law school. It is aimed at exposing inner-city students
to opportunities in the legal community that would otherwise not
exist for them.
Ordoñez credits the commitment of those involved, including
Supreme Judicial Court Associate Justice Roderick L. Ireland. "We
all want to see the program flourish," she said.
The program has gained traction since its Oct. 29 kick off. A
total of 40 participants have been matched into 10 groups, where
the lawyers will serve as mentors, the high school students will
take on the role of mentees, and the students in law school and
college will take on dual roles.
Regarding the other goals of the task force, Ordoñez said, "We
need to make sure that we are as inclusive as possible and make
ourselves available to all Massachusetts attorneys. Inclusivity is
"The MBA serves as the big tent for those smaller groups of
attorneys," she said. "I appreciate the MBA's role in pulling the
threads together with all the groups."
Ordoñez has been known to pull together a thread or two of her
own in the court room. "She leads by example in reminding us each
day about how a person who speaks limited, little or no English may
need a little extra attention and understanding," said the Hon.
Christina Harms, a long-time colleague of Ordoñez in the Norfolk
Probate and Family Court.
"I am truly honored to have her as my colleague, and I know the
members of the Norfolk bar will echo my praises. I'm often told by
attorneys how glad they are to have Judge Ordoñez assigned to their
cases," Harms added.