By Cary Shuman
The Honorable Justice Kenneth Fiandaca is hard at work in the Roxbury District Court these days. He is presiding over a docket of criminal cases, from the most serious criminal arraignments to the most mundane community issues.
Being a judge is a tremendous responsibility. A defendant has the right to have a trial before a jury or just a judge, which is called a bench trial. The vast majority of cases at the RDC are tried before a jury. If there is a conviction, it is up to the judge to impose the sentence.
Fiandaca, a Winthrop resident for the past 23 years, is seven months into his new position as a justice in the Massachusetts court system. He was appointed to the bench by Governor Deval Patrick on December 17, 2008, and confirmed by the Executive Council. His actual seat is as one of two justices in the East Boston Division (East Boston District Court) of the Boston Municipal Court.
His prestigious position in the East Boston court brings him back to the community in which he grew up.
Fiandaca grew up in East Boston and attended St. Dominic Savio High School, graduating in 1978. He has five sisters and one brother, Joseph Fiandaca, who is a sergeant-detective with the Boston Police, based in East Boston. One of his sisters, Cheryl Fiandaca, is a television reporter for WCVB-TV Channel 5.
His father, the late Joseph Fiandaca, was the first assistant clerk magistrate at the East Boston court for more than 30 years. “Of all of the inspirations in my life, he would certainly be first and foremost, without equal.”
Fiandaca started looking toward a possible career in the legal profession when he majored in Crime and Deliquency at Suffolk University. He went on to attend Suffolk Law School.
“I was very impressed with the education I received at Suffolk,” said Fiandaca. “At the time I attended Suffolk [undergrad], it was very much a commuter school and sort of a blue collar school. But the undergraduate education was excellent and the law school education was extraordinarily practical. We had many judges who were lecturers and associate professors and it was a very practical working knowledge of the law that Suffolk imparted.”
Fiandaca practiced law at the Fiandaca and Ferrigno law firm for 23 years in East Boston and five years ago he and his partner, Attorney Sandra Ferrigno, opened a second law office in Danvers. In addition to his law practice, he was also the Suffolk County Bar Advocate in the East Boston Court. Because of his appointment to the judgeship, he was required to leave his law practice.
He is enjoying his work as a judge.
“I enjoy my work – it’s a wonderful job and a wonderful place to change a community and be part of helping a community,” said Fiandaca. “It’s unique in mid-career, after 20-plus years of doing one thing to start anew doing something else that’s related — a continuation, but in many ways, very different. It’s energizing and very pleasurable.”
Fiandaca, who lives in Winthrop with his wife, Adele, and two children, Anthony and Renata, has taken an active role in public service in the town. He served on the Winthrop Personnel Board under chairman Dan Mullane and the Town Reorganization Committee with Richard Bangs in the last 1980s.
“We looked at a town administrator’s position way back in the late 1980s,” recalled Fiandaca.
He also served on the Ingleside Park Study Committee when Massport funded the reconstruction of the park. “Our committee was tasked with designing the park in a way that benefited the community and addressed all of the concerns of the public. The residents wanted green space for concerts, the gazebo, tennis courts, a baseball diamond, and a playground for the kids.”
Fiandaca said the town has benefited tremendously from the justices from Winthrop that have served in the East Boston Court, a distinguished group that includes Justices Joseph Ferrino Sr., Dominic J.F. Russo, and Paul Mahoney. “Those judges are just the gold standard in district court judges. Winthrop is currently served by Presiding Justice Robert Ronquillo, who continues on that tradition.”
Fiandaca would encourage high school and college students to consider a career in the legal profession. “Being a lawyer gives you an opportunity to change lives and it is a noble goal to aspire to and it’s a noble profession.”
Is Judge Fiandaca developing a reputation as a tough judge or one who defers to leniency in his sentences?
“I’ll let the lawyers speak to that themselves,” he said. “I hope I have the reputation of being a fair judge.”