Upon learning of the passing of Boston Bar Association and American Bar Association past President John J. Curtin, Jr of Bingham McCutchen, Boston Bar Association President Paul T. Dacier issued the following statement:
“Jack was the ultimate citizen lawyer, both nationally and locally. His legacy is his impassioned work protecting funding for legal services. Throughout his life and lengthy career at Bingham McCutchen, Jack combined his formidable experience as a trial lawyer with a broad range of civic and philanthropic activities to become a leader and role model in the legal profession.”
Curtin was President of the Boston Bar Association (BBA) in 1981, when President Ronald Reagan proposed zero funding for the Legal Services Corporation. Curtin responded by appealing to his Boston colleagues to join him in a march on Capitol Hill, organized by the American Bar Association (ABA) in protest of the cut. Curtin’s call to action proved a pivotal moment in cementing the collaboration between the private bar and legal services – while helping to restore 75 percent of what President Reagan had proposed cutting.
Upon returning to Boston, Curtin set to work to find a way to make up for the 25 percent loss by advocating for state funding of civil legal aid and expanding pro bono so that members of the private bar could do more to help those unable to afford a lawyer. The result was the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC).
Curtin went on to serve as President of the ABA. In 1991, when then Vice President Dan Quayle went before the ABA to blame lawyers for hurting America’s competitiveness, Curtin’s rebuttal was quoted in The New York Times: “Anybody who believes a better day dawns when lawyers are eliminated bears the burden of explaining who will take their place.”
For his leadership in the federal fight for Legal Services, his skills as a trial lawyer at Bingham McCutchen and broad ranging civil and philanthropic activities, Curtin received the BBA’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010. Read past President Jack Regan’s speech honoring Curtin here.
A funeral Mass will be said at 11 a.m. Tuesday in the Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola in Chestnut Hill. Burial will be in Woodlawn Cemetery in Wellesley..