By Haley Chi-Sing
Boston University Statehouse Program
MILFORD — General practice attorney Pacifico DeCapua says he practically grew up in the courts. Now the Milford native is about to take the next step in his career as he awaits confirmation to become a district court judge.
After nearly 20 years in private practice, DeCapua, 56, was nominated to the bench by Gov. Charlie Baker last month. The Governor’s Council interviews him on Wednesday.
Pursuing a career in law was never a question in DeCapua’s head. His father, the late Pacifico DeCapua Sr., established an office in town in 1960 and served as Milford’s town counsel for 11 years.
“I just tagged along with (my father). And I probably have been through many of the courthouses; probably nearly all of them by the time I was 7 or 8 years old, and continued to just follow him around,” the younger DeCapua recalled. “And it was just always what I expected, I expected that I would be a lawyer. I really never wanted to do anything else.”
Pacifico DeCapua’s college and career path
Born and raised in Milford, DeCapua is fond of his roots, stating it was always his plan to return home. DeCapua graduated from Milford High School in 1983, where he was vice president of the American National Honor Society and a member of the football, baseball and wrestling teams.
He then enrolled in Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, as a political science major before moving on to law school at the Georgetown University Law Center.
“I always enjoyed the criminal defense side of things; that really, really interested me,” DeCapua said. “I felt like that was what I always thought my everyday would be like — to be defending people charged with criminal offenses, and in the courts throughout the commonwealth.”
Following his Georgetown graduation, DeCapua took the Massachusetts bar exam that summer and was officially sworn in in December 1990. He became a public defender shortly afterward, working as a court-appointed bar advocate. However, it was always within his plan to open his own practice in Milford.
“For me, I was born here, I got married here, I have my practice here, we’ve raised our family here. So Milford means the world to me. And being part of this community means the world to me,” said DeCapua. “And it’s just not anything that you can even quantify, or it’s just a feeling that you have growing up here and being part of this community.”
While he worked in the same building, on Jefferson Street, as his father, young DeCapua always had his own practice.
“We had different areas of practice and we had separate practices,” he said. “We were in the same building and our practices overlapped at times — but I have been a sole practitioner since the day that I was sworn in in December 1990.”
Road to becoming a judge
However, becoming a judge was never a part of his ultimate professional plan. Like many other lawyers, DeCapua said he never went into practice expecting to sit on the bench. It wasn’t until an assistant district attorney, with whom he was working a case at the time, mentioned that DeCapua had the makings of a great judge.
“I went about my job every day and did my thing every day and did my thing the best way that I could, but I didn’t know how others felt about me,” he said. “So, at that time, it kind of sank in, well, maybe this is something someday to pursue.”
DeCapua said he kept that statement in the back of his mind until four years ago, when he officially took a step and reevaluated both his work and personal life. He recalled noticing the diversity of the cases he had been trying and all of the factors contributing to his being a qualified candidate for a judgeship. DeCapua submitted his application two years ago and is now awaiting confirmation.
Since starting his practice, DeCapua became even more involved in the community while also helping raise his family alongside his wife, Susan. He is a member of several bar associations, including the American Bar Association, Massachusetts Bar Association, Worcester County Bar Association, the Milford Bar Association and the Real Estate Bar Association.
DeCapua has been active in Milford as a coach for his children’s sports teams and as a mock trial coach at Milford High School. He intends to do more if confirmed as a district court judge.
“I think the opportunity to help others is what I’m looking forward to,” said DeCapua. “I think that a judge in the district court has an opportunity to help people — help people that maybe need help and need support that they may not be getting from other places or other parts of their lives. So I hope that I can help play a role.”
After several years of undergoing the application process, all that’s left is the wait.
“I hope that I can convince (the council) that I’m worthy of the governor’s pick. That’s my hope. That’s my plan,” DeCapua said. “And I think the things that they will hear about me from the others who will speak on my behalf will also support what I’m asking them to do, what the governor is asking them to do.
“And that’s to approve my nomination.”