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The Many Facets of a Neutral

Hon. Cheryl Jacques [ret.]

I am pleased to offer my services through Massachusetts Dispute Resolution Services to help parties reach successful resolution to their disputes. My thirty-year legal career, along with abundant life experiences, has cultivated my ability to look at issues from different vantage points with empathy for all parties involved. I have had the good fortune of utilizing my skills in the private, public and non-profit sectors as well as in academia, and have intently studied the law from numerous different perspectives – as a student, practicing attorney, lawmaker, teacher and adjudicator of the law.

“Experience in a variety of capacities is a wonderful foundation for a good neutral.”
~Hon. Cheryl Jacques [ret.]

As a litigator, I am aware of how slowly the wheels of justice can turn. That is why effective DR is a critical tool for practitioners and their clients. Working with an efficient, effective neutral and objective negotiator can make all the difference in expediting matters, saving money, and protecting litigants from the uncertainties that accompany trial in the Court system.

My legal career has afforded me widely varied and incredible opportunities. As President of the Human Rights Campaign, a national nonprofit focused on equality for LGBT people, I traveled throughout the country engaging with people of every race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and financial means. Speaking publicly on high profile issues like the legalization of same sex marriage allowed me to meet and interface with people from diverse backgrounds. To those people whose views were very different from my own, I always listened patiently, respectfully, and with an open mind – just as I would want to be heard.

The heady privilege of representing approximately 165,000 people came to me as a State Senator. My district encompassed some of the wealthiest – and some of the poorest – communities in Massachusetts. I met regularly with aggrieved individuals to assess the government’s ability to help them. As I listened, I was faced with the hardships so many of our neighbors’ experience. There was tremendous conflict between parties for and against passage of legislation, and with regularity, we would work should-to-shoulder with colleagues one day, and then fight aggressively against those same colleagues the next. I will be forever fortunate for the opportunity to not just appreciate people’s different belief systems, but to actually learn from them. These lessons formed a foundation that broadened my understanding of, and empathy for, those around me.

Teaching at established law schools, such as Suffolk University Law School and Western New England School of Law, further honed my ability to break down complicated concepts and provide summaries, interpretations, and explanations to others. During these years I practiced civil and criminal law, did trial and appellate work and had the privilege of arguing cases before the Supreme Judicial Court and the Massachusetts Appeals Court. I have also tried cases in the Superior Court, the Jury of Six Session, and the District Court. In each of these instances, I learned the value of meticulous work and an exceedingly strong work ethic.

As a criminal prosecutor (Assistant District Attorney and Assistant Attorney General), I cultivated an environment of respect and understanding of the importance of each person and their role in the administration of justice. This afforded me great success in resolving cases pending in the state and district court, and which has proven invaluable in my life beyond.

When I served as Of Counsel to a general practice Boston law firm for over a decade, I represented plaintiffs and defendants in preparation for, and in litigation of, employment law (employees and employers), municipal liability, personal injury, labor law, victim’s rights and civil rights cases, as well as insurance defense. In addition, I trained law enforcement officials on civil remedies for crime victims. My years of practice were well-balanced between plaintiffs and defendants, leaving me comfortable with the impartiality necessary to be a good neutral.

The civil remedies training served me personally, as an Administrative Judge presiding over injured worker cases. Here, I worked diligently to carefully prepare cases and to thoroughly assess facts so that my rulings were fair. It was important to me that the written decisions I rendered were clear, just, and concise opinions issued in a timely manner. To achieve this, I would carefully review case files, hearing transcripts, evidence, expert medical testimony, counsel’s arguments, and case law before rendering a written decision. I take pride in the fact that I have been told by others that I am recognized as fair, smart, and helpful.

My years as a judge honed my ability to advance listening skills to include deep observation, so that I can carefully evaluate witness credibility when listening to testimony, spot inconsistencies, and concentrate on the witness’s demeanor. Serving as a judge required a laser focus on the facts as well as an open mind receptive to where the facts led. Properly applying the law and even-handedly and fairly serving justice was my sole focus. Some of the cases I presided over were relatively clear-cut in terms of adjudicating a just outcome. However, many were not. It is the cases that are more nebulous that present a challenge for every judge. To decide an individual’s fate is a sobering responsibility. Being “right” according to the books is not the only consideration; ensuring “justice” is equally important.

When I wasn’t adjudicating trials, I often served as a mediator for other Judge’s cases. Parties frequently requested that I meet with them to help them sort through conflicting facts, listen to their clients, and guide them to a fair and just resolution. By patiently letting the parties work at resolving conflicts and making myself available to frequently discuss the case status and what was needed to overcome remaining obstacles to settlement, parties were often able to enter into settlement. In addition, I often provided counsel my support with difficult clients. Many injured workers have a strong, but erroneous, conception about workers’ compensation remedies and an inherent distrust of lawyers. In these cases, I listened to Counsel explain how their client’s misunderstandings were hindering fair settlement. I convened conferences with the employee present and used those opportunities to explain workers’ compensation remedies, thereby reinforcing the attorney’s message.

Entering this new phase of my life as a[n exclusive] neutral, I’m pleased and excited to work with Massachusetts Dispute Resolution Services, where I can make a difference with my skills and passion! I invite you to schedule a Zoom consultation if you think I might be a good fit for one of your cases that needs a settlement event. I will be looking forward to meeting many of you as we move together through this complicated world, in hopes that together, we can make things better one settlement at a time.