Justice James F. McHugh
Justice James F. McHugh of the Massachusetts Appeals Court has received the 2011 William H. Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence from the National Center for State Courts (NCSC). One of the most prestigious judicial honors in the country, the Rehnquist Award is presented annually to a state court judge who exemplifies the highest level of judicial excellence, integrity, fairness, and professional ethics. Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts Jr. presented the award to Justice McHugh at a Nov. 17 ceremony at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.
Justice McHugh received a unanimous nomination for the award from the justices of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court along with letters of support from chief justices and community leaders. In their nomination the justices wrote, "An eminent trial and appellate judge, Justice McHugh has long been a driving force in reshaping the Massachusetts court system for the 21st century." They cited the clarity, intelligence, and perceptiveness of his judicial decisions, as well as his ability to think creatively about the courts' systemic challenges, to build consensus, and to implement change.
Justice McHugh was an early adopter of best practices in case management, including the use of mediation programs in civil cases, to increase timeliness of dispositions in a fair and efficient manner. More recently, he was selected by court leaders to undertake efforts to reshape the operations, structure, and culture of the Massachusetts courts. Using his diplomatic and communications skills in working with various stakeholders, Justice McHugh has helped to develop policies to modernize and strengthen the management structure of the courts. The justices noted that Justice McHugh's efforts "have laid the foundation for the Massachusetts judiciary to revolutionize the way it serves the public."
His accomplishments as a leader and pioneer on issues of judicial administration are particularly noteworthy. For four years as the special advisor on technology to the chief justice for administration and management, Justice McHugh played a key role with the Information Technology organization and the trial court departments in the replacement of 14 software systems with MassCourts, a Web-based, central infrastructure for all court users in all departments. This statewide case-management system has significantly improved efficiency and helped the trial court deal with the severe budgets cuts of the past several years. Thousands of electronic transactions to entities like the Registry of Motor Vehicles, the Committee for Public Counsel Services, and the Board of Bar Overseers have saved hundreds of hours of staff time.
Justice McHugh has served as an associate justice on the Massachusetts Appeals Courts since 2001, and served as an associate justice on the Massachusetts Superior Court from 1985-2001. In 2008, he received the J. Donald Monan Judicial Leadership Award from the Massachusetts Court Management Advisory Board. Prior to his judicial appointment, Justice McHugh was a partner with Bingham, Dana & Gould.