Francis Patrick O'Connor
Born in Boston on Dec. 12, 1927, son of Thomas Lane and Florence Mary (Hagerty) O'Connor, he was raised in Belmont and lived briefly in Medford and Grafton before settling in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts in 1962. He attended Belmont public schools and graduated from Boston College High School in 1945. He graduated from the College of the Holy Cross in 1950, after serving two years in the U.S. Army in the occupation of Korea following World War II. In 1953, he graduated from Boston College Law School and was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar, and later to the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts and the U.S. Court of Appeals.
He served as law clerk to the Honorable Raymond S. Wilkins, Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC), from 1953 to 1954. From 1954 to 1976, Justice O'Connor practiced law at Friedman, Atherton, Sisson & Kozol in Boston, and Mason, Crotty, Dunn & O'Connor and Wolfson, Moynihan, Dodson & O'Connor in Worcester. Prior to his tenure on the bench, he served as a member of the SJC Advisory Committee on the Rules of Civil Procedure and the SJC's Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee.
He was the first Supreme Judicial Court Law Clerk to return to the state's highest court as an Associate Justice and the first graduate of Boston College Law School to serve on the Supreme Judicial Court. Justice O'Connor was widely recognized in the legal community for the respectful tone he set in the courtroom, his honesty, his integrity, and the courtesy he extended to all parties and counsel who appeared before him. He was recognized for his work on the SJC Substance Abuse Project Task Force, service as chairman from 1992–1995 and honorary chairman thereafter. He received St. Thomas More Awards from the St. Thomas More Society of Worcester and from the BC Law School Alumni Association and honorary Doctor of Laws degrees from the New England School of Law and Suffolk University School of Law. He served on the court from 1981 until he retired in 1997.
O'Connor was known for his detailed decisions, sometimes opposing the majority on the court, which led to the nickname the "Great Dissenter". In 1976, on the recommendation of his peers at the Bar, Gov. Michael S. Dukakis appointed Justice O'Connor to the Massachusetts Superior Court, where he served with distinction for 5 years. In 1981, Gov. Edward J. King appointed him to the Supreme Judicial Court, where he served for 18 years and earned a reputation for his thoughtful and precise opinions. Governor King appointed O'Connor to the court in hopes he would be a Justice who would reliably oppose abortion, but Justice O'Connor made it clear he would not be someone who was easy to pigeonhole- notably breaking with the Republican party on issues such as the death penalty.
He died of Alzheimer's disease in 2007. Upon learning of O'Connor's death, Governor Deval Patrick issued a statement saying, "I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of former Supreme Judicial Court justice Francis P. O'Connor. Justice O'Connor served our highest court with honor and distinction for many years and was widely respected and admired for his intellect, his integrity and humanity, and his commitment to the legal community and beyond." Justice Greaney, who served on the bench with O'Connor was quoted as saying "He was one of the most distinguished and knowledgeable judges that I know. He approached each case with impartiality, with a great deal of legal research and thought, and wrote opinions that . . . would stand as precedent long after he retired from the court." Justice O'Connor and his wife Ann E. (O'Brien) had 10 children and 34 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
- Marshall, C.J., Ireland, Greaney, Spina, Cowin, Cordy, Botsford, JJ. (October 15, 2008). "Justice Francis P. O'Connor Memorial Sitting". Retrieved 12 December 2009.
- "Retired Mass. SJC Justice O'Connor dies at age 79.(retired Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Justice Francis P. O'Connor". Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly. August 13, 2007. Retrieved 12 December 2009.
|Associate Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
Roderick L. Ireland