The passing this past week of John C. Ligotti. known to his friends as Jack, who served for five decades as an assistant clerk and clerk-magistrate of the East Boston District Court and then was promoted to the District Court bench, marked the end of an era for long-time residents of the East Boston, Winthrop, and Revere communities.
John Ligotti’s life was a typical American immigrant success story exemplifying the values of hard work, determination, and love of family and community. Judge Ligotti was born on June 20, 1916, one of five siblings of immigrant parents who emigrated from Barrafranca, Sicily in 1912, initially taking up residence in Passaic, New Jersey before moving to the Boston area a few years thereafter.
Despite meager financial resources, Judge Ligotti worked his way through Northeastern University School of Law during the Great Depression and became one of the youngest persons ever to pass the Massachusetts Bar Exam when he did so at the age of 23.
With jobs still scarce, Judge Ligotti worked as an unpaid intern in the East Boston District Court under then Clerk-Magistrate William Barker. With the help of Boston Mayor James Michael Curley, Judge Ligotti soon was named an assistant clerk-magistrate of the East Boston District Court. After rising to the position of First Assistant Clerk-Magistrate, Judge Ligotti was appointed to the Clerk-Magistrate’s position by Gov. Foster Furcolo in 1957 upon the retirement of Clerk-Magistrate Barker.
Clerk-Magistrate Ligotti was elevated to the bench of the District Court in 1974 by Governor Francis Sargent. Judge Ligotti initially served as a Special Justice of the District Court before being named to the position of First Justice of the Malden District Court, where he served until 1986 upon reaching the mandatory judicial retirement age of 70.
After his retirement, Judge Ligotti’s value and experience to the court system continued to be recognized by the Supreme Judicial Court, which appointed Judge Ligotti for a number of years as a recall justice.
Humility, wisdom, compassion, and a dedication to public service are the words that most often come to mind from those who knew, and worked with, Judge Ligotti during his 50-year tenure as a judicial officer in the Massachusetts court system, according to Sandra Caggiano, who worked in the East Boston District Court for 41 years beginning in 1967 when she was hired by Judge Ligotti and who herself eventually rose to the position of First Assistant Clerk-Magistrate under Judge Ligotti’s successor, Joseph Faretra..
“I learned from John Ligotti, as did everyone who worked for him, what it means to be a compassionate human being and what it it takes to make a man a gentleman,” said Caggiano. “He instilled in us the notion that we were to treat everybody, regardless of their station in life or where they came from, with dignity and respect.
“Judge Ligotti was fond of reading the Bible, and his approach to the job was to take care of the least among us,” continued Caggiano. “His legacy in the East Boston District Court carried over long after he had left the court and continues today. The East Boston District Court is well-known among other courts, among police, and among those who come before it as one of the best-run and most-compassionate courts in the state.”
“My uncle helped everybody who came in front of him and yet he never asked anything from anyone,” said his nephew Joseph Ligotti, who himself has served the Massachusetts judicial system with distinction for more than 50 years, most notably as an assistant clerk of the Supreme Judicial Court and currently as the Clerk-Magistrate of the Hingham District Court.
“He epitomized the concept of public service,” continued Ligotti, whose own son, Angelo, has maintained the family legacy of service in the judicial system as an assistant clerk of the Bristol Juvenile Court. “He was an incredibly humble man who never forgot where he came from. Even though he worked very hard to attain his success, he understood that not everyone had the same degree of opportunity that he had.
“He came from a loving family and what brought him the most pleasure was his own family,” added Ligotti, referring to Judge Ligotti’s four daughters, grandchildren, and great-grandchild.
The words of the poet Wordsworth are apt when describing the manner in which the thousands of individuals who came before John Ligotti received the benefit of his innate kindness, compassion, and wisdom:
“That best portion of a good man’s life,
his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.”
Family and friends will honor Judge Ligotti’s life by gathering on Thursday, July 6, in the Ruggiero Family Memorial Home, 971 Saratoga Street (Orient Heights), East Boston, from 9:00 A.M. to 12:00 noon, followed by a procession to Our lady of the Assumption Church, Lynnfield for a funeral Mass in celebration of the Judge’s life at 1:00 P.M. Services will conclude with Judge Ligotti being laid to rest with his beloved wife, Rose (Cavaliere),.