Cape Cod family attorney Carmela M. Miraglia speaks to peers about the legacy of retiring judge Hon. Robert A. Scandurra.
On July 13, 2018, Hon. Robert A. Scandurra, former First Justice of the Barnstable Probate and Family Court, will retire from the bench. We spoke to several Cape Cod family law attorneys in recent days about Scandurra's retirement, career and legacy. According to lawyers who appeared regularly before him over the last two decades, Judge Scandurra will be sorely missed in Barnstable County.
A Lifetime of Probate and Family Court Work on Cape Cod
Judge Scandurra has been an inescapable presence in Cape Cod probate and family court circles for more than 40 years.
A graduate of Ithaca College and New England School of Law, Scandurra was appointed to the bench by former Governor Bill Well in 1994, after twenty years of private practice as an attorney in Barnstable. For the next fifteen years, Scandurra heard cases in the Barnstable Probate Court along with former first justice, Hon. Robert Terry (ret.), who retired from the bench in 2008. After Terry’s retirement, Scandurra became First Justice of the Barnstable Court, where he was joined by Hon. Arthur C. Ryley.
We asked several attorneys who appeared before Judge Scandurra over the years for their thoughts on his retirement. These attorneys recounted the attention Scandurra gave to each individual who entered his courtroom, regardless of whether the individual was a witness, newly admitted attorney, seasoned veteran lawyer or pro se party. Across the board, these attorneys agreed that Judge Scandurra was always a source of patience, courtesy and respect in the courtroom.
Attorneys Recall Judge Scandurra’s Courtesy and Trial Skills
Attorney James M. Lynch, the managing partner at Lynch & Owens, recounted Judge Scandurra’s willingness to consider cases with an open-mind, even when the judge clearly had doubts:
I tried several cases before Judge Scandurra. I will always remember his great courtesy. Not just towards attorneys, but also towards parties and court staff. I respected that he was not afraid to change his mind in a case. I recall taking over as attorney in cases that had a long history in front of Judge Scandurra, where he clearly knew the case history and was skeptical about my client’s position. But he always let the evidence come in patiently. He weighed the facts fairly, despite whatever skepticism he felt, and offered a sincere opinion. That ability to put aside the history and weigh the facts objectively, in every case, made him the consummate trial judge.
Attorney Steven DeYoung, partner of the Hyannis firm, CarterDeYoung offered similar reflections about Judge Scandurra’s tenure:
I have had the distinct pleasure to appear before Judge Scandurra from the start of his tenure as a Judge in Barnstable County. His patience with litigants and lawyers, knowledge of the law, and decision making have all been hallmarks of his illustrious career. Having tried several cases in front of him, I may not always have gotten the judgment I had hoped for; however, I was always impressed with the logic of his decisions which were noted by him in his rationale. Not only was he a gifted jurist, he was, and is, a kind, thoughtful and decent man. I have had a few opportunities to speak with Judge Scandurra away from the Court where I have found his humor, wit, dignity and humanity to have shone brightly. I will always believe that he roots for the wrong baseball team. I will miss the opportunity to appear before him.
Barnstable attorney Carolyn Garrahan recalls appearing before Judge Scandurra extensively over the last 20+ years:
Judge Scandurra was always, patient, fair, technical, and was tough when the facts required him to be. I remember when I brought in a former Husband on a capias after having him arrested on the steps of the church following his father's funeral (ex- Husband had fled state several years earlier, had ignored Court order for alimony and payment on division of assets, and capias had been outstanding for many years) Judge Scandurra did not hesitate to hold him in Contempt and held him with a purge of $100,000. The ex-husband was in jail for several weeks until payment arrangements were finalized. The Cape Cod Times ran this story and it was picked up by the Associated Press and it was printed in newspapers all over the U.S.
His hard work and dedication to the Barnstable Probate and Family Court for over 2 decades has had a profound impact on allowing attorneys to process their cases in an expedited manner as compared to any other County in Massachusetts which then enabled clients to receive timely hearings and decisions. We were truly blessed to have had him in Barnstable County and he will be greatly missed.
Judge Scandurra was an early mentor to Attorney Jason V. Owens, a partner at Lynch & Owens:
In 2008, I had only just passed the bar exam. My first job as an attorney was serving as a judicial clerk for the Probate and Family Courts, and Judge Scandurra was the first judge I was assigned to clerk for. He was incredibly warm and welcoming. I remember he immediately handed me several important assignments; cases that were going to the Appeals Court, and he took the time to walk me through the material and fill in the many gaps in my knowledge.
Scandurra’s Courtesy and Professionalism a Recurring Theme
Above all else, each attorney I spoke to commented on Judge Scandurra’s civility, respectfulness and professionalism in the courtroom. It is impossible to please everyone as a Probate and Family Court judge. Making decisions about young children and major financial issues amidst family conflict is a difficult, draining job. Despite these challenges, Judge Scandurra’s courtesy and professionalism always prevailed on those who appeared before him most.
About the Author: Carmela M. Miraglia is a Massachusetts divorce lawyer and Massachusetts family law attorney for Lynch & Owens, located in Hingham, Massachusetts and East Sandwich, Massachusetts. She is also a mediator for South Shore Divorce Mediation.