Portsmouth man stepping down from federal judgeship

U.S. Senior District Judge Edward F. Harrington lives in Portsmouth. U.S. Senior District Judge Edward F. Harrington lives in Portsmouth.

PORTSMOUTH — U.S. Senior District Judge Edward F. Harrington of Portsmouth is stepping down from the federal bench effective Dec. 31, 2013.

U.S. Senior District Judge Edward F. Harrington lives in Portsmouth.

U.S. Senior District Judge Edward F. Harrington lives in Portsmouth.

Judge Harrington, 80, served as a United States district judge for over 25 years and, before his judicial appointment, as an attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. and in Boston in various positions for over 15 years. Those positions include United States attorney and chief of the Organized Crime Strike Force.

He was a member of a select group of attorneys sent by Attorney General Robert Kennedy to Mississippi during the “long hot summer of 1964″ to protect the rights of college students who were conducting voter registration there.

He is one of only seven individuals who have served as both U.S. district judge and U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts since it was established in 1789.

Judge Harrington was appointed as U.S. district judge for the District of Massachusetts by President Ronald Reagan on Feb. 22, 1988 and assumed senior district judge status on March 1, 2001.

“During his quarter century of judicial service, Judge Harrington skillfully addressed a broad range of demanding and novel issues, including the ‘fraud on the market’ doctrine in securities fraud cases, the use of ‘repressed memory’ in sexual abuse cases, the scholastic standards required of learning-disabled students in private schools, the diligence required of federal regulators in the fishing industry, contentious confrontations at abortion clinics, the constitutionality of the cell tower legislation, and discovery rules for electronic documents,” said U.S. District Court Judge Patti Saris, the chief judge for the District of Massachusetts.

“In addition, he participated in many major patent cases involving significant inventions in the medical, electronic and communication fields. With versatility, energy and common sense, Judge Harrington provided a model for the independent generalist judiciary established by our Founders through the Constitution,” she added.

Judge Harrington was an early critic of the mandatory U.S. Sentencing Commission guidelines, criticizing them for their inflexibility and severity. As a senior judge he declined to hear criminal cases based on his belief that the guidelines infringed the sentencing judge’s traditional discretion. After the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately rendered the guidelines discretionary, rather than mandatory, Judge Harrington resumed trying criminal cases.

In summing up his approach to judicial service, Judge Harrington said, “As a judge, I had no agenda other than to try to resolve disputes justly and expeditiously under established principles of law.”

Judge Harrington has summered in Portsmouth since 1940 and has been a permanent resident since 2011.

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