Local attorney Robert W. Harnais has been nominated as an associate justice of the Massachusetts District Court by Gov. Charlie Baker.
If confirmed by the Governor’s Council, Harnais would fill the seat vacated by the Honorable Dominic J. Paratore.
Harnais began his legal career in 1991 as an Associate for the Law Office of John Shorton in Roxbury, a general litigation firm where he represented clients in matters including personal injury, criminal, and care and protection cases in District and Juvenile Court. Previously, he served as a Probation Officer for the Quincy District Court from 1984 until 1988, and as an Investigator for the Massachusetts Department of Revenue from 1988 until 1990.
In 1993, Attorney Harnais formed Mahoney & Harnais in Quincy, a general practice firm where he remains a Partner and handles matters ranging from criminal and civil litigation to real estate conveyance and municipal permitting. Since 1999, he has also served as General Counsel for the Norfolk County Sheriff’s Office, and was Acting Norfolk County Sheriff from October 2018 until December 2018.
Attorney Harnais is a member and past president of numerous professional organizations, including the Massachusetts Bar Association (President 2015 – 2016), the Massachusetts Association of Hispanic Attorneys (President 2004 – 2006), and the New England Bar Association (President 2016 – 2017). He has also served as Chairman of the Braintree Planning Board since 2008, and as Vice Chair of the Governor’s Latino Advisory Board since 2017. Attorney Harnais earned his Juris Doctorate from New England School of Law and his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Massachusetts Boston.
The District Court hears a wide range of criminal, civil, housing, juvenile, mental health, and other types of cases. District Court criminal jurisdiction extends to all felonies punishable by a sentence up to 5 years, and many other specific felonies with greater potential penalties, all misdemeanors, and all violations of city and town ordinances and bylaws. In civil matters, District Court judges conduct both jury and jury-waived trials, and make final determinations on any matter where the likelihood of recovery is no more than $50,000 (for cases commenced on or after January 1, 2020). The District Court also tries small claims involving up to $7,000 (initially tried to a magistrate, where the defense has a right of appeal either to a judge or a jury).