J. W. Carney Jr.

  • Attorney




J. W. Carney, Jr. is a criminal defense attorney who practices in all State and Federal Courts of Massachusetts. He has been voted by his peers as one of The Top 100 Lawyers in Massachusetts (out of over 40,000 attorneys), and Boston magazine identified him as one of The Five Best Private Criminal Defense Attorneys in the state. The preeminent legal publication in Massachusetts called him one of The Most Influential Lawyers in Massachusetts, a list that included the Governor and the Chief Justice of the courts. He also has been included in the annual publication The Best Lawyers in America since 1998.

Mr. Carney is skilled in all aspects of criminal defense, including pre-indictment investigations, arraignments, bail hearings, motion practice, plea bargain negotiations, jury trials, sentencing hearings, and appeals. He has handled thousands of cases over his career in the District, Superior, and Federal Courts, including over one hundred and ninety-eight jury trials of major felonies.

After graduating from Holy Cross College (1975) and Boston College Law School (1978), he began his career as a full-time public defender in Boston from 1978 to 1983. Mr. Carney was appointed an Assistant District Attorney for Middlesex County in 1983, where he remained until 1988. The District Attorney named him the team leader of a group of prosecutors who handled the most serious cases, including murder and manslaughter, sexual abuse of children and adults, domestic violence, major motor vehicle offenses, drug trafficking, and white collar prosecutions.

Mr. Carney currently represents clients at every stage of the criminal justice system. Many individuals are under investigation by the police or the grand jury, and Mr. Carney ensures that their rights are protected zealously. The majority of these clients are never formally charged with a crime.

A typical client of Mr. Carney has had minimal or no prior contact with the Courts, and is an adult or a juvenile facing the most serious situation that he or she has ever encountered. Mr. Carney prides himself on giving each one his personal attention and limits his caseload to meet this goal. Moreover, he is able to employ a team of lawyers and support staff for each case, and draw on skilled investigators and experts to ensure that the client receives the very best defense. If a conviction to some of the charges is inevitable, Mr. Carney presents creative sentencing proposals to the Court which emphasize treatment, not incarceration.

Mr. Carney's typical caseload includes allegations of murder; white collar crimes; domestic violence; Federal mail and wire fraud; drug offenses; serious crimes of violence; sexual abuse of children and adults; child pornography, juveniles; arson; and major motor vehicle violations, including operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs and motor vehicle homicide. His practice before Regulatory Boards focuses on the suspension of professional licenses and other disciplinary proceedings against lawyers and doctors, among others. Mr. Carney puts a special emphasis in his criminal cases on mental health defenses, expert witnesses, and creative sentencing proposals.

He has handled many high-profile cases, including the first trial presented in its entirety in New England on cable television. He has been asked by courts to represent defendants in some of the most challenging criminal cases, including James "Whitey" Bulger, Tarek Mehanna (a terrorism case), and John Salvi (the murders at a Brookline abortion clinics). Based on these experiences, Mr. Carney has been invited to address various legal groups on how to use enhanced media attention for the client's benefit if publicity is a foregone conclusion, although his preference is to keep the client out of the spotlight.

J. W. Carney, Jr. is a contributing author to Massachusetts Criminal Practice, which is the leading authority on the defense of criminal cases in Massachusetts. Among the chapters he was asked to write are Opening Statements at trial, Closing Arguments, and Sentencing Advocacy. In addition, Mr. Carney is the editor of the treatise Massachusetts Evidence: A Courtroom Reference, which is relied upon by countless trial lawyers and judges. He also has contributed to Take the Witness: The Experts Speak On Cross-Examination. Mr. Carney frequently is asked to address continuing legal education programs for criminal defense lawyers, and has been the co-chairperson of the Annual Criminal Law Conference in Massachusetts on numerous occasions. In addition, he has made presentations to the annual educational conferences of the judges of the Superior Court and the Juvenile Court.

Mr. Carney has been a Fellow since 1996 of the American College of Trial Lawyers, which is the most prestigious invitation-only bar association in the United States. He is a past President of the Boston College Law School Alumni Association, has been appointed to the oversight Criminal Justice Act Board by the Federal judges of Massachusetts, and is a past officer of the Boston Bar Association. He has served for twenty-two years on the Judicial Nominating Commission under five governors. The commission is a twenty-two-member group that advises Governors on the appointment of judges in Massachusetts.

When an individual is accused of a crime, his freedom, reputation, and career are at stake. The single most important factor in determining the outcome is often the expertise of the lawyer who represents him or her. Experience, commitment to the client, and a 44-year record of success ensures that J. W. Carney, Jr. will provide the very best defense.

Please feel free to call Mr. Carney at 617-933-0350, or e-mail him at [email protected]

Year Joined Firm

  • 1989

Areas of Practice

  • Criminal Defense
  • Pre-Indictment Investigations
  • Arraignments
  • Bail Hearings
  • Sentencing
  • Motion Practice
  • Plea Bargain Negotiations
  • Jury Trials
  • Sentencing Hearings and Appeals

Bar Admissions

  • Massachusetts, 1978
  • U.S. Court of Appeals 1st Circuit, 1982
  • U.S. District Court District of Massachusetts, 1979
  • U.S. Supreme Court, 1991


  • Boston College Law School, Boston, Massachusetts
    • J.D. - 1978
  • Holy Cross College, Worcester, Massachusetts
    • B.A. - 1975

Published Works

  • Opening Statements at trial, Closing Arguments, and Sentencing Advocacy, Contributing Author, Massachusetts Criminal Practice
  • Massachusetts Evidence: A Courtroom Reference, Editor of the Treatise
  • Take the Witness: The Experts Speak On Cross-Examination, Contributing Author


  • Annual Criminal Law Conference in Massachusetts, Co-Chairperson
  • Presenter, Annual Educational Conferences of the Judges of the Superior Court and the Juvenile Court

Honors and Awards

  • One of The Top 100 Lawyers in Massachusetts
  • One of The Five Best Private Criminal Defense Attorneys, Boston Magazine
  • One of The Most Influential Lawyers in Massachusetts, The Preeminent Legal Publication in Massachusetts
  • The Best Lawyers in America

Professional Associations and Memberships

  • Boston Bar Association, Past Officer

Past Employment Positions

  • Public Defender, Boston, 1978 to 1983
  • Assistant District Attorney for Middlesex County, 1983 to 1988