This article originally appeared in The Bar Examiner print edition, Fall 2022 (Vol. 91, No. 3), pp. 33–34.

Portrait Photo of Robert J. (“Bob”) Muldoon, Jr.Robert J. (“Bob”) Muldoon, Jr., of Massachusetts, former chair of NCBE’s Board of Trustees (1985–1986, known then as the Board of Managers), passed away on July 4, 2022. Geoffrey R. Bok, former chair of the Massachusetts Board of Bar Examiners and current chair of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s Bar Admissions Curriculum Committee, offers the following tribute to Bob.By Geoffrey R. BokThe bar examining community has suffered a major loss with the death, at age 85, of former NCBE Board of Managers chair and longtime Massachusetts Board of Bar Examiners member Robert (“Bob”) Muldoon.

Bob, a native of Massachusetts, first pursued a religious education before embarking on his long legal career. Upon graduation from high school in 1954, Bob joined the novitiate class of the Society of Jesus at Shadowbrook in Lenox, Massachusetts. Late in his seminary training, he decided to leave the Jesuits and earned his law degree from Boston College Law School in 1965. Following a year clerking at the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, Bob went into private practice and became one of the finest and most well-respected trial lawyers in Boston.

Bob’s training with the Jesuits formed his core both as a person and as an attorney. He was gracious, thoughtful, well-read—and occasionally theatrical. He saw ethical conduct, civility, professionalism, and excellence as being paramount to both life and the practice of law.

Bob served on NCBE’s Board of Managers from 1977 to 1987, including as chair from 1985 to 1986. He was an instrumental part of the Board’s decision to reorganize and modernize NCBE’s leadership structure by employing an executive to run the organization with the assistance of a newly created Board of Trustees. It was also during his years at NCBE that both the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) and the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE) were developed (with the latter’s first administration in 1988), and the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) was further refined. As Erica Moeser, former NCBE president who served with Bob on the Board, recalls in a recent conversation, “Bob was a visionary who helped start the process of redesign of the organization that eventually led to the NCBE of today. He was a person of brilliance, integrity, and wit.” 

Bob had a passion for justice. This was reflected in a decision made by the Board of Managers during his term as chair: the Board voted to divest NCBE of its investments in companies doing business in apartheid South Africa. As Bob wrote in the Bar Examiner about that decision: “Given the modest size of the Conference portfolio, the impact (like the impact of most divestment decisions taken individually) is symbolic. ‘We live by symbols,’ however, and one value of the Board’s action might be to encourage lawyers in South Africa, black and white, who strive to establish an authentic rule of law in which race no longer determines rights.”1

It was also during his year as Board chair that the students of the 1986 graduating class of the University of Montana School of Law filed a petition in the Montana Supreme Court challenging that state’s use of the MBE. These law students asked the Court to rescind its order adopting the MBE and to return to the previous bar admissions system, under which graduates of the University of Montana’s School of Law were admitted to the bar in Montana without taking a bar examination. Bob was instrumental in drafting NCBE’s amicus curiae brief in that case. The Court denied the students’ petition and held instead that the MBE “provides a practical and useful means of testing the qualifications of applicants for admission to the State Bar of Montana.”2

In addition to his service with NCBE, Bob was a member of the Massachusetts Board of Bar Examiners for over 30 years, eventually becoming its chair. During these decades he worked tirelessly to improve bar admissions in the state. As the Massachusetts Board at that time had a very small budget and no legal staff, he represented the Board in court, drafted four bar examination essay questions each year, and drafted lengthy character and fitness decisions. He was a passionate believer that the requirement for new attorneys to pass both a rigorous bar examination and a character and fitness review was and will always be critically important for public protection.

Finally, Bob was a witty and warm person who loved literature, poetry, and philosophy. In almost every conversation or oral argument, he would recite from memory a quote or a historical reference to make his point. Thus, it seems appropriate to end this tribute with a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson that embodies Bob’s life: “The purpose of life … is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” Bob lived his life with purpose, and his life made a difference to many. 


  1. Robert J. Muldoon, Jr., “Letter from the Chairman,” 55(1) The Bar Examiner 2–3 (February 1986). (Go back)
  2. In re Revision of the Montana Bar Examination, 222 Mont. 25, 720 P.2d 285 (1986), available at (Go back)

Portrait Photo of Geoffrey R. BokGeoffrey R. Bok is the chair of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s Bar Admissions Curriculum Committee, former chair of the Massachusetts Board of Bar Examiners, and current member of the Vermont Board of Bar Examiners.

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