Judge Charles Ambrose DeCourcy

Lawrence, Essex County, Massachusetts, USA
Death 22 Aug 1924 (aged 66)
New London, Merrimack County, New Hampshire, USA
Burial Lawrence, Essex County, Massachusetts, USA
Memorial ID 87812624 · View Source
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Interesting note, Charles died one month and 19 days after his mother passed away.

From the public records of the Supreme Court of Massachusetts:-=-=-
Charles Decourcy
251 Mass. 620 (1925)

The Honorable Charles Ambrose DeCourcy died at New London, New Hampshire, on August 22, 1924. He was an Associate Justice of this court from September 20, 1911, to the date of his death. On June 27, 1925, a special sitting of the full court was held in Boston, at which there were the following proceedings.

The Attorney General addressed the court as follows:

May it please your Honors: I have been asked by the bar of this court to present the following memorial:

Charles Ambrose DeCourcy; A memorial. 1

Charles Ambrose DeCourcy was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, on September 23, 1857, and died in New London, New Hampshire, on August 22,1924. His death was sudden and unexpected, and brought to an untimely close a life of honorable achievement and great distinction. He made his own way in the world, without adventitious aids, and his career furnishes a splendid illustration of the opportunities which this country affords to young men of ability, industry and determination.

In 1846, John DeCourcy of Kinsale in southern Ireland was married to Mary Lawlor. Less than two years later the young couple, with their infant daughter, joined the multitude who were seeking new opportunities beyond the Atlantic. They settled in the recently incorporated town of Lawrence, destined to be their home for the remainder of their lives, and there John with industry and skill plied the trade of carpenter which he had learned in the mother country. Establishing a business of his own, he acquired a competence, and his three children were given every educational advantage.

The daughter, Hannah, gifted with rare qualities of mind and character, was to become Sister Agnes Aloysia, Mother Superior of the Convent of Mount Notre Dame at Reading, Ohio. The older son, a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, became an architect and practised his profession in Los Angeles.

Charles DeCourcy was born less than ten years after the arrival of his parents in this country. He received his education in the public schools of the city, and at Georgetown University, where he was graduated with the degree of A. B. in 1878, being one of the commencement speakers. Thereafter he studied law at Boston University and took his degree of LL.B.,cum 1aude,in 1880. After a year spent in the office of Shattuck, Holmes and Monroe in Boston, he entered upon the practice of his profession in Lawrence,in association at first with John K. Tarbox, a member of Congress and leading lawyer. On September 8, 1886, he was married to Elizabeth Mary Roberts of Lawrence, who, with two sons, Harold and John, survives him.

He practised law in Lawrence until 1902, winning a high degree of success. For six years, beginning in 1884, he was assistant district attorney of the Eastern District, serving under District Attorney Henry F. Hurlburt. In 1891, he became senior partner of the firm of DeCourcy and Coulson, afterwards DeCourcy, Coulson and Cox. In 1892, he was city solicitor of Lawrence. He was a trial lawyer of exceptional ability, and had that kind of miscellaneous general practice which furnishes so admirable a prelude to a judicial career. The Essex County bar, in those days as always, counted among its numbers many distinguished lawyers, and in this company DeCourcy early took a leading place. He brought to the service of his clients not merely natural gifts of a high order, but unfaltering diligence, thoroughness in the preparation of his cases, a determination to give the best that was in him to every task. His experience was, however, by no means limited to the trial of cases. He became an adviser of men of affairs, and was associated as bank director and otherwise with many business enterprises. Ever mindful of his obligations as a citizen, he became a leader in the civic life of his community.

In 1902, at the age of 44, he was appointed to the Superior Court by Governor Crane, and thereafter devoted his life to the judicial service of the Commonwealth. As a nisi prius judge he was very successful. With his quick comprehension and ready knowledge of men, he presided skilfully and effectively at trials by jury. He was prompt and decisive in his rulings and his instructions to the jury were clear and admirably expressed. He was always courteous and affable in his dealings with members of the bar. These qualities, coupled with his fine presence and attractive voice, made him a distinguished figure upon the bench of the great trial court.

One of his abiding interests was in the administration of the criminal law, and particularly in the development and extension of the probation system, which seemed to him to be, as he once said in a public address, "the most effective method in use to solve the criminal problem." He strove to place the system on a sound and scientific basis and make it effective in its purpose of human reclamation. Becoming convinced of the need of greater uniformity than prevailed when he took his seat upon the bench, he sought to bring about the establishment of a State board which should have supervision over the entire probation system of the State. The legislation of 1908 which created the commission on probation was due in no small part to his efforts, and he became the first chairman. The aid and encouragement which Judge DeCourcy gave the commission in the performance of its duties and his constructive criticisms of the system in operation constituted a signal service to the people of Massachusetts, perhaps not fully appreciated by the general public but recognized as invaluable by those intimately associated with the work of the commission.

In 1911, Governor Foss, with the full approval of the bar of the Commonwealth, promoted Judge DeCourcy to the Supreme Judicial Court. Here, as in the trial court, Judge DeCourcy rendered service of high quality. His opinions are characterized by soundness of reasoning, clearness and simplicity of style and a commendable brevity. Intellectually honest, he did not shrink from recognizing in any case with which he was called upon to deal a hitherto undecided residue not covered by previous decisions, but faced the situation frankly and made plain the step in advance which was required. He never forgot the relation of the law to the real life of the community or overlooked the fact that he was dealing with a social science rather than abstract science. While he avoided an exhaustive and encyclopedic recital and discussion of prior decisions, his treatment of the more abstruse branches of the law was entirely adequate. Kind hearted, courteous, patient and anxious to do justice, he was one before whom it was a pleasure to appear. He will be remembered as a sound and satisfactory judge.

Tireless as he was in the performance of his professional duties, his interests were by no means limited by the range of his daily tasks.

Judge DeCourcy's tastes were scholarly. He was a great reader, and after he took up his residence in Boston was one of the most constant visitors at the Athenaeum. He was particularly interested in history and biography and indeed had dreamed of devoting his leisure to historical research when he should retire from the bench.

He was likewise keenly interested in public affairs, and with his pleasing personality, qualities of leadership and effectiveness as a public speaker, it is easy to believe that he might have had a distinguished political career.

He was a religious man, unswerving in his devotion to the faith of his fathers. Singularly free from prejudices of race or creed, he was sincerely tolerant of men whose views and opinions differed widely from his own. Without losing any of his personal loyalties or weakening in the slightest in his fundamental opinions, he was able to deal effectively with widely varying groups and to make a distinct contribution toward the leveling of the artificial barriers between them.

His broad human sympathies, his personal charm, affectionate nature and talent for friendship made him ever welcome in any gathering of lawyers. He never felt that his high judicial position required him to hold himself aloof from social intercourse with his brethren of the bar, and their affection for him as a man was equal to their respect for him as a judge.

It was not merely the members of his profession in Massachusetts who appreciated his abilities. He was one of the Board of Regents of Georgetown University, a fellow and vice president of the American Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology, a member of the Judicial Section of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He had been chairman of the committee on criminal law of the American Prison Association, president of the Massachusetts State Conference of Charities, a visitor of the Department of Philosophy at Harvard University. In 1904 he received the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from his alma mater.

The funeral services were held in the Church of St. Mary in the parish where he was baptized, confirmed and married, and where until his removal to Boston he had been a steadfast communicant.

And now the bar of Massachusetts, to pay its tribute of respect and affection, assembles in this court room, in the presence of you who were for so many years his associates upon the bench, and submits this brief memorial, feeling that, inadequate as it is, it may serve, in some slight measure, as a record of the esteem in which he was held by the lawyers of the Commonwealth.

On behalf of the bar of this Commonwealth I respectfully request that this memorial be embodied in the records of this court.

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  • Maintained by: Hank Davison
  • Originally Created by: Jack Davison
  • Added: 1 Apr 2012
  • Find A Grave Memorial 87812624
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Judge Charles Ambrose DeCourcy (23 Sep 1857–22 Aug 1924), Find A Grave Memorial no. 87812624, citing Immaculate Conception Cemetery, Lawrence, Essex County, Massachusetts, USA ; Maintained by Hank Davison (contributor 47434908) .