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Bar News - December 16, 2011

In Memoriam: Joseph M. Kerrigan

Joseph M. Kerrigan
Born and raised in Haverhill, Massachusetts in 1919, Kerrigan lived a long life, leaving a lasting impact on those around him, both personally and professionally. In an obituary written by his family, he was described as "treating [everyone he met] with the respect they deserved, be they rich or poor...He was a man of wise judgement and unwavering character, who would listen well and always offer sage advice when asked."

"Joe Kerrigan, whose bag I was privileged to carry many years ago and who taught me how to be a lawyer, was the best of what our profession claims to be. He was brilliant and selfless. He was concerned only by his client’s interests, but was willing to compromise if the facts and the law suggested that compromise was the best course," said NH Supreme Court Chief Justice Linda Stewart Dalianis. "Above all, he was unwilling to sacrifice his personal integrity regardless of the circumstances. The New Hampshire Bar has lost a giant. I have lost a mentor and dear friend. I will always be grateful to Joe for the faith he showed in me when I was hired as the first woman lawyer at Hamblett & Kerrigan. We will all be the poorer for his passing."

Kerrigan entered the College of the Holy Cross and graduated with Honors in 1939. He later enrolled in Harvard Law School only to have his studies interuppted by World War II. During that time he enrolled in Harvard Business School, receiving an Associate’s Degree in 1943. He later worked for the Curtis Wright Corporation and entered the US Army Air Force, where he attained the rank of Staff Sergeant. Following his military experience, he finished his law degree at Harvard Law School.

His first legal position was as an associate at Hartford Acc and Ind Co. in Boston, where he worked as a trial attorney. He moved his family to Nashua in 1951, taking a job first with Sullivan & Gregg, and then later with Hamblett, Morin & Hamblett - later to be known as Hamblett & Kerrigan. He retired in 2004.

During the patent infringement lawsuit, RCA vs Nashua Corp., a high- power NY lawyer for RCA and his assistant came to Nashua Corp for depositions. The lawyer’s name was Plante. As Assistant Counsel for Nashua corp, I assisted Joe during the depositions. During the second or third deposition that morning, Mr. Plante’s assistant passed a note to Joe and myself which read, "Plante needs water."

Leaving me to handle objections, Joe quietly got up, went to the rest room and came back with a large container of water...which he proceeded to pour on the only potted plant in the room, and then quietly sat back down and continued taking notes. Joe was one of my favorite lawyers, quick with a word of praise and a joke.
Bob Fryer
Kerrigan was very active in the NH Bar Association and in other local, regional, and national legal organizations. He was past president not only of the NH Bar Association, but also of the Nashua Bar Association, the New England Bar Association, and the Northern New England Defense Counsel. He served also as state chair for the American Bar Foundation, the Defense Research Institute, the American College of Trial Attorneys, and was a director of the Association of Defense Trial Attorneys. In addition to the NHBA Professionalism Award, Kerrigan also received the Nashua Bar Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Community involvement was another large part in the life of Joseph Kerrigan. The list of organizations that have benefited from his expertise and his skills is long and includes: the Rivier College Board of Directors; the Nashua Planning Board; the Nashua Charitable Foundation; the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce; Southern New Hampshire Medical Center; St. Joseph Hospital, and more. He was recipient of the Nashua Charitable Foundation’s first Humanitarian Award and was named Citizen of the Year by the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce.

Kerrigan married Jean Maragret Dooley in 1942. They raised five children together and were married for 59 years when she passed away in 2001. In 2004, Kerrigan married Marjorie Lemay Kerrigan. He is survived by, in addition to his wife Marjorie, his children, Kathleen, Joseph, Patricia, Timothy, and Matthew; nine grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

"Although we were always on opposing sides of issues, and Joe was a veteran and I was green, he inevitably treated me with respect, even kindness," said Robert Sullivan, current City Attorney for the City of Portsmouth. "He taught me lessons about the practice, especially the human dynamics of it, that I have relied on for my whole career. He was a fine Irish gentleman of a type which we will not see often again."

Supreme Court Rule 42(9) requires all NH admitted attorneys to notify the Bar Association of any address change, home or office.

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