The Hon. Phillip Rapoza
Chief Justice, Massachusetts Appeals Court
Doctor of Law
The Honorable Phillip Rapoza serves as Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Appeals Court, marking the latest chapter of his long career in public service. A former assistant district attorney in Suffolk and Bristol Counties, Rapoza was appointed to the bench in 1992 and served as a trial judge in both the Fall River District Court and the Massachusetts Superior Court. He was appointed to the Appeals Court in 1998, and in 2006, he was named Chief Justice.
In addition to his judicial service in Massachusetts, Chief Justice Rapoza has been a leader in the field of international justice. Between 2003 and 2005, he took an unpaid leave of absence from the Appeals Court and served as an international judge on a UN-backed war crimes tribunal in East Timor, conducting trials in cases involving crimes against humanity and other serious offenses committed during Indonesia’s 24-year occupation of that country. He subsequently lived and worked in Haiti, where he headed a UN criminal justice advisory team. Most recently, in 2012, Chief Justice Rapoza was appointed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to serve as a reserve judge on the Supreme Court Chamber of the UN-backed war crimes tribunal in Cambodia. That court was established to bring to justice those responsible for the deaths of as many as two million Cambodians during the rule of the Khmer Rouge.
Rapoza is a member of the US Council of Chief Judges of State Courts of Appeal, a Life Fellow of the Massachusetts Bar Foundation, and serves as President of the International Penal and Penitentiary Foundation, which is headquartered in Switzerland. He has received a number of awards for his work both in the US and abroad, including the President’s Award from the Massachusetts Bar Association, the Alexander George Teitz Memorial Award from the Touro Synagogue Foundation, the Brazilian Medal of International Merit, and membership in the Republic of Portugal’s Order of Prince Henry the Navigator with the rank of Commander.
A Dartmouth native, Chief Justice Rapoza earned his BA magna cum laude from Yale College and his JD from Cornell Law School.