The First Justice of the Norfolk Probate and Family Court, David H. Kopelman, is this year’s recipient of the Judicial Excellence Award for the Probate and Family Court...
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The First Justice of the Norfolk Probate and Family Court, David H. Kopelman, is this year’s recipient of the Judicial Excellence Award for the Probate and Family Court.
A graduate of Harvard University and Harvard Law School, Judge Kopelman was appointed to the bench in January 1981 by Governor King. Prior to his appointment, Judge Kopelman worked for Herlihy and O’Brien where he specialized in family and probate law. Judge Kopelman’s career began working for Walter Haneberry as a tort defense lawyer.
Few other living probate and family court judges have authored as many landmark decisions as Judge Kopelman. His decisions in cutting edge cases, whether upheld or reversed, have established legal principles that endure and will guide lawyers and litigants into the future. Here’s a small sample:
BROPHY, decided in 1986: In this landmark case, Judge Kopelman’s extensive hearings, detailed findings, and thoughtful analysis, lead to the SJC announcing the principles by which “right to die” cases are to be decided in Massachusetts. In turn, the Brophy case has become a national model in other states. It is hard to imagine a more far-reaching or important accomplishment by a careful trial judge, with a big heart and a fine mind.
ESTATE OF MARY GUZELIAN: In this high profile case, often referred to as the “bag lady” case, Judge Kopelman’s lengthy trial and detailed written findings are a true demonstration of a courageous decision. The facts of this case and the ultimate result are a true illustration of judicial integrity and independence.
NORWOOD HOSPITAL VS. YOLANDA MUNOZ: a 1991 SJC case has become the statewide, and the nationwide, standard by which blood transfusion cases are decided. These cases often involve life and death issues (as they did in the Munoz case) and a huge debt of gratitude is owed to the trial judge who laid out the issues, the competing interests, and the law as it had developed to that point.
As for his decisions, he is known for his fairness and his ability to explain what he does in a clear and understandable way. Not every judge has complete mastery of both the domestic (family law) side, and the probate (trusts, wills, and estates) side of our Court; David Kopelman is a true master of both.
What is most important about Judge Kopelman’s legacy are the countless judges and lawyers whom he has mentored over the years, professionals who truly view him as one of the brightest lights of our Court. Judge Kopelman always has time to discuss a difficult issue and always a creative suggestion. On many occasions, he gets of the bench to help a colleague on the telephone, or in person, with a difficult evidentiary or other issue. Judge Kopelman’s greatest gift is his human side with litigants and attorneys. After 25 years he still has a sense of humor and cares about the Court and his job. Judge Kopelman treats all individuals with dignity and kindness, including litigants, lawyers and court staff. His door is always open.
When Chief Justice Dunphy suffered some health problems over the last year, Judge Kopelman stepped in as acting Chief and not only handled the administrative aspects of the Probate and Family Court but also continued to handle his full case load in the Norfolk County Probate and Family Court.
Judge Kopelman has been the impetus for programs in Norfolk Probate and Family Court, which make the Court run as one of the most efficient, and user-friendly courts in the Commonwealth. Judge Kopelman has seen the Norfolk Probate and Family court through a difficult period of physical relocation from Dedham to Canton and through the pioneering change to an individual calendar, years before many other Courts within our Department.
|Education:||1960 B.A. Harvard University
1964 J.D. Harvard Law School
|Experience:||First Justice Norfolk Probate and Family Court
Herlihy & O'Brien, Boston, Massachusetts - Specialized in family and probate law
Barron & Stadfeld, Boston, Massachusetts - General litigation
Law Offices of Walter Henneberry, Boston, Massachusetts - Personal Injury defense
|Affiliations:||Massachusetts Bar Association
Boston Bar Association
Norfolk Bar Association
|Awards:||1986 - Jurist of the Year Award Temple Emanuel Brotherhood
1995 - Libby Award for Outstanding and Distinguished Service
2006 - Judicial Excellence Award for the Probate and Family Court from Massachusetts Judges' Conference