On March 5, nearly 400 members of the Massachusetts legal community took a break from their busy work schedules to celebrate “Excellence in the Law,” an annual event honoring the achievement and distinction in the profession. The reception and awards ceremony was co-hosted by the Massachusetts Bar Association and Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly and sponsored by the Massachusetts Bar Association Insurance Agency, Inc.
Among those honored at the event were the Hon. Herbert P. Wilkins (ret.), former chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court, and Gary V. Murray, a court reporter with the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. Wilkins was the recipient of the Daniel F. Toomey Excellence in the Judiciary Award, while Murray took home the Excellence in Legal Journalism Award.
Wilkins is currently the Huber Distinguished Visiting Professor at Boston College Law School. Prior to serving on the SJC for nearly 30 years, Wilkins practiced law at Palmer & Dodge in Boston. His contributions to the legal system are many, including his leadership in the adoption of the new Massachusetts Rules of Professional Conduct. Also, through Wilkins’ leadership as chair, the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission has studied and made recommendations over the last four years to improve the delivery of civil legal services in Massachusetts.
“Long after his retirement from the bench in 1999, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court Herbert P. Wilkins has been contributing to the teaching of future attorneys, as well as offering his expertise to causes that have far-reaching effects on the citizens of Massachusetts,” MBA President Edward W. McIntyre said as part of the award presentation. Wilkins could not attend the event due to a longstanding commitment out of the state.
In his recorded acceptance remarks played for the audience, Wilkins explained that he knew the late Justice Daniel Toomey and described him as “polite, well-prepared, thorough, firm, but not overbearing,” qualities Wilkins found to be “admirable in a judge.”
In thanking the MBA and Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly for the award, Wilkins commended both, saying “the bar and the press are very important in preserving our liberties.”
McIntyre then presented the journalism award to Murray. McIntyre, who lives and practices in Central Massachusetts, said, “I witness him on the job in the Worcester courts covering cases and other news as it unfolds. Gary’s extensive experience and old-school journalistic style translate complex legal cases and court issues into digestible, well-written material for the Telegram & Gazette readership.”
Murray has served as the court reporter for the Telegram & Gazette for more than two decades. Prior to The Worcester Telegram and The Evening Gazette becoming one paper in 1986, Murray began his career with The Evening Gazette. This is the second time Murray has received the Excellence in Legal Journalism Award from the MBA and Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly. He was first honored with the award in 2003. Also, the Worcester County Bar Association honored Murray with its annual Liberty Bell Award in 2006.
McIntyre specifically applauded Murray on his recent front page article on Trial Court funding. Murray accepted the award modestly by simply stating, “This is a tremendous honor.” Like Wilkins, Murray also shared a few thoughts on his interaction with the late Daniel Toomey in Worcester Superior Court. “Dan Toomey was a brilliant man and one of the finest men I’ve ever known.”
Wilkins and Murray were joined by a distinguished selection of other well-deserving honorees, including four Diversity Heroes and Lawyers Weekly’s 13 Lawyers of the Year. Also, the newly added “Lawscars” — a play on the Oscars — proved to be a crowd favorite at this year’s event.