While presenting Judge Joan N. Feeney with the Boston Bar Association’s Charles P. Normandin Lifetime Achievement Award at the 28th Annual Bankruptcy Bench Meets Bar Conference on May 24 at Boston’s Omni Parker House, Judge Christopher J. Panos highlighted not only the breadth of Judge Feeney’s accomplishments but also her generosity of spirit.
“As most of you know, Judge Feeney has attained national prominence as a jurist, academic, champion for access to justice, supporter of continuing legal education, diversity efforts, and bench/bar coordination,” noted Judge Panos before emphasizing the collegiality Judge Feeney engendered among the judges, court members, and staff of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the district of Massachusetts. “Judge Feeney is the heart of this court. She plans birthday parties, the public events, and seems to go to every wake. She cares deeply for the Court family, the attorneys who practice in her Court, and the parties that come before her. Her personal commitment is extraordinary.”
That praise is as well-deserved as it is effusive. Judge Feeney’s career has indeed had a uniquely profound impact on the practice of bankruptcy law in Massachusetts. Judge Feeney has been a United States Bankruptcy Judge for the District of Massachusetts since 1992, and she served as Chief Judge from 2002 to 2006. She is also a member of the First Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel. Judge Feeney served as President of the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges in 2011 and 2012. She is an Associated Editor of The American Bankruptcy Law Journal, and a Fellow and a member of the Board of Regents of the American College of Bankruptcy. She has served on the Board of Directors of the American Bankruptcy Institute. She is the co-author of the West publication Bankruptcy Law Manual and the co-author of The Road Out of Debt published by John Wiley & Sons.
Judge Feeney received the Normandin Lifetime Achievement Award not only in appreciation for her outstanding contribution throughout her career to improving the quality of the practice of bankruptcy law, but also for the significant impact on the community she has had through her work with the BBA’s M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Project, of which Judge Feeney is a founder and the project’s Co-Chair. Since 2005, the project’s 1,500 volunteers have reached more than 6,200 students statewide, covering topics including personal finance & budgeting, using credit & credit cards, and the consequences of poor financial management.
Upon receiving the Normandin Lifetime Achieve Award, Judge Feeney noted that she had joined the Boston Bar Association’s bankruptcy section as soon as she passed the bar exam and began her career as a bankruptcy court law clerk. She recounted that, through her participation in the bankruptcy section, she had the opportunity to meet Charles Normandin and observe firsthand the qualities and values that made him an icon of the bankruptcy profession. Judge Feeney noted that Normandin was “a superb advocate and masterful facilitator, champion of the bankruptcy system, and volunteer to the poor in need of legal services” and that he “set the highest stands of competence, professionalism, and integrity – he was a model of what a bankruptcy lawyer should be, always taking the professional and ethical high road.”
While the award recognizes the impact that Judge Feeney has had on the practice of bankruptcy law, Judge Feeney reflected on the impact that the bankruptcy law profession has had on her. She shared, “My colleague on the United States District Court, Judge William Young, has said, ‘A judge is a teacher.’ I would like to add a corollary to that: a judge is also a student. Throughout my bankruptcy career, I have learned something new every day. Bankruptcy law has inspired me, challenged me, and sustained me.”
Judge Feeney, a 2005 recipient of the BBA’s Haskell Cohn Award for Distinguished Judicial Service, is a graduate of Connecticut College and Suffolk University Law School. Prior to her appointment, she was an associate and partner in the Boston law firm Hanify & King, P.C. and was a Career Law Clerk to the Hon. James N. Gabriel, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge for the District of Massachusetts.
The Bankruptcy Bench Meets Bar Conference is an annual opportunity for bankruptcy professionals and the Federal Bankruptcy Court Judges to meet and share insights, observations, and analysis on key issues pertaining to bankruptcy law. The conference is the principal event put on by the Boston Bar Association’s Bankruptcy Law section, which offers informative programming year-round, as well as volunteer opportunities including the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Project. The project first began in 2005 under the direction of Judge Feeney, Ellen Carpenter (then President of the BBA), and Janet Bostwick. In 2008, the project received the LexisNexis Community & Educational Outreach Award from the National Association of Bar Executives and LexisNexis. The Bankruptcy Law section was co-chaired in 2017-2018 by Lee Harrington of Nixon Peabody LLP and Jennifer V. Doran of Hinckley Allen.