Judge Joseph Ferrino, whose 25 year tenure as presiding justice at East Boston District Court was famous for compassion and fairness, has died.
Judge Ferrino, whose dedication to helping youth on the wrong path turn their lives around, died on Sunday, Nov. 22 in Boston. He was 94 years old.
Judge Ferrino was born in 1926, the son of Sicialian immigrants who arrived in America through Ellis Island in 1910. He attended Boston schools and later served in the U.S. Navy during World War II.
After the war, Judge Ferrino graduated from Alabama University and later Boston University School of Law in 1951. After passing the Massachusetts Bar he opened up a small law practice in a brownstone in East Boston that started a stellar career in not only law but in civic engagement.
From the start of his law career Judge Ferrino served his clients, but also became involved in numerous civic organizations both locally and nationally.
In 1971 Gov. Francis Sargent appointed Judge Ferrino to the East Boston District Court and in 1976 Gov. Michael Dukakis appointed him presiding justice in East Boston.
Judge Ferrino’s 25 year tenure at the East Boston court was marked by transforming the court into a community asset. The court became a multi-dimensional community court complete with a totally unique in-court community medical clinic and a Boy Scout coeducational Explorer Post.
In an 1982 newspaper article on Judge Ferrino’s court, the East Boston Community News pointed out the uniqueness of his methods.
During a case involving teenagers arrested in connection with a string of commercial break-ins the newspaper said, “Judge Ferrino uses a unique form of sentencing for juvenile offenders, which requires convicted teenagers to perform up to 500 hours of community work. He may also require the offender to repay the victim any monetary damages involved.”
In the article Judge Ferrino argued that Restitution to Victims of Crime, or RVC, helps to make many victims “whole” by the offender paying for his crime.
However, it was giving youth a second chance that made his brand of justice unique.
“The juvenile may be placed to work in nursing homes, schools, recreation centers or the Department of Youth Services on a voluntary basis,” said Judge Ferrino in the article. “ln this
program the criminal also benefits by making himself or herself “whole” by providing useful services and personally gaining from the experience.”
This form of justice would carry over years later as Judge Ferrino dedicated himself in his retirement to ensuring youth in Eastie, whether it was through his work with the Kiwanis, the East Boston Social Centers, the Boy Scouts or numerous other local organizations, stayed on the right path and gave back to their community. Over the years he instilled a duty of community service and the importance of helping others that could be seen in the work thousands of local youth did on behalf of the civic associations in East Boston Judge Ferrino helped lead.
“Today we honor the memory of Judge Joseph Ferrino who served in the East Boston District Court for more than two decades,” said longtime friend Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo. “A World War II veteran Judge Ferrino advocated tirelessly on behalf of veterans and the Boston community as a whole with his work on juvenile justice and his many contributions to the legal community. He was a pioneer of community courts insisting that the court serve as a resource to people in need. He was a mentor and friend, and my thoughts are with his family and loved ones.”
In 1989 the president of the Massachusetts Bar Association presented him their Public Service Award, calling his court “unparalleled in the state.” In addition to his court responsibilities, Judge Ferrino was a member of the Massachusetts, North Suffolk, and Boston Bar Associations.
“The Judge touched many lives both on and off the bench,” said members of the
Superior Court Clerks’ Association Michael Sullivan. “He had a guiding principle – he cared. He was a friend and an all around great guy. He made people feel welcomed.”
After his retirement from the bench Judge Ferrino immersed himself and dozens of community and state organizations.
One of his proudest accomplishments was when he founded the Bay State Chapter of Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge. It became a major focus of his energies, particularly after retirement from the bench in 1996. His work in building the group from scratch ultimately provided hundreds of young people an immersive U. S. policy and education experience at the Freedoms Foundation national education center in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.
“An incredible man,” said Dr. Edith De Angelis, a local community activist who served on many boards over the years with Ferrino. “An extraordinary volunteer, a consummate leader and mentor, and a friend to all. He was a founder, organizer, and successful leader for innumerable organizations and activities. He was a cherished friend for over sixty years and will be missed.”
Judge Ferrino’s role in the Italian American community was legendary. Over the decades he served in every leadership role in the Dante Alighieri Society of Massachusetts and worked to establish the annual October Italian Heritage Month in Massachusetts. He maintained active membership in a plethora of Italian American organizations his entire life.