Joseph F. Quinn

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Joseph Francis Quinn (1857–1929) was the first Irish American to become a judge in Massachusetts for any significant period of time. He served on the bench of the Essex County Superior Court after being appointed by Governor Eugene Foss in 1911 until his death in 1929.[1][2] He lived in Salem and was the son of an immigrant from the days of the potato famine. He attended the University of Ottawa in Canada due to discrimination against the Irish in the U.S. at the time, graduating in 1881, and went on to be admitted to the Bar in Massachusetts in 1884 after attending Boston University School of Law and apprenticing under a local attorney.[3][4] After working for the local U.S. Attorney, Joseph Quinn started his own thriving practice.

Joseph Quinn was associated with John F. Fitzgerald and Patrick Kennedy (P. J. Kennedy) and other prominent local persons in the greater Boston area. Judge Quinn presided over many prominent cases including the trial of Joseph Ettor and other leaders of the storied "Bread & Roses" Lawrence textile strike in 1912 which became a national cause célèbre and resulted in the defendants' acquittal.[5][6][7][8] While his handling of this historic case was praised, there were many within the radical labor milieu supporting the defendants who believed he, like many in positions of authority at the time, harbored a deep seated conservative bias against them.[9][10][11]

The next year Joseph Quinn was the judge in the widely publicized trial of William Dorr of Stockton, California who was convicted and sentenced to death for having traveled all the way back East to Lynn, Massachusetts in order to murder millionaire George Marsh as part of a scheme to inherit his money through an unwitting California niece.[12] Dorr was executed in the electric chair in 1914.[13][14][15][16]


  1. ^ "J.F. Quinn of Salem Named, Appointment Justice Superior Court, Prominent Lawyer of the Essex County Bar, Was Highly Recommended to Gov Foss", Boston Daily Globe, Feb. 9, 1911
  2. ^ "Judge Joseph F. Quinn, Superior Court Jurist Dies in Salem Mass at 72 Years", New York Times, August 13, 1929
  3. ^ "The Irish American as a Citizen", New England Magazine, August 1912
  4. ^ 1918 "Martindale" directory
  5. ^ "Ettor's Trial Begins Sept 30, Judge Quinn to Preside in Salem Court. Special Venire for 300 Jurors Will be Issued, Lawrence Strike Leaders Long in Jail", Boston Daily Globe, Sept. 10, 1912
  6. ^ "Ettor's Trial Opens Today, $50,000 to Defend Him and His Two Fellow-Prisoners", New York Times, Sept. 30, 1912
  7. ^ "Prisoners' Pleas Stir Labor Trial", New York Times, Nov. 24, 1912
  8. ^ "Acquitted, They Kissed; Ettor, Giovannitti and Caruso Thanked Judge and Jury; 10,000 Hail Ettor and Comrades Free", New York Times, Nov. 27, 1912
  9. ^ "Refuses Bail in Ettor Case", Boston Daily Globe, Oct. 11, 1912
  10. ^ "Jurists Honor Judge Quinn, Praise for Conduct of Ettor Trial; He Attacks Socialism at B.U. Law School Reception, Must Prevent Subversion of Government", Boston Daily Globe, Jan. 19, 1913
  11. ^ Chapter V, "The Trial of a New Society" by Justus Ebert (IWW Pub. Bureau, 1913),
  12. ^ "Lynn Police Going for Dorr", Boston Daily Globe, April 25, 1912
  13. ^ "the-william-dorr-way-to-murder" at
  14. ^ "Find Dorr Guilty of Marsh's Murder", New York Times, Feb. 28, 1913
  15. ^ "Dorr Hears Death Sentence Calmly", Boston Daily Globe, Jan. 24, 1914
  16. ^ "W.A. Dorr Put to Death", New York Times, March 24, 1914