Ireland Is Sworn In As SJC Chief Justice

Gov. Deval Patrick, right, swears in new Chief Justice Roderick Ireland as Ireland's mother, Helen Ireland, holds the Bible on Monday in Boston. (AP)

BOSTON — Roderick Ireland has taken his place atop the Massachusetts court system.

Ireland, who has been a judge for 33 years, on Monday was sworn in as the first black chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court. Before the ceremony, the Springfield native said he’s aware of his position.

“I’m also aware I’ll be the chief justice for everyone, not just for black citizens,” Ireland said.

As chief, Ireland not only runs the SJC and decides which justice will write the court’s opinions, he also oversees the state’s sprawling court system.

Ireland takes over a judicial system squeezed by tight resources. It has also lost public trust, thanks to allegations of colossal mismanagement in the probation system.

At his swearing in, the 66-year-old acknowledged the many challenges state government faces.

Chief Justice Ireland's Swearing-In Speech

“By nature I’m an optimist and thus I have faith in our ability to work together,” Ireland said, “and I include all three branches of government in this so we can do the right thing for the commonwealth.”

Gov. Deval Patrick said Ireland is the ideal person for the job.

“We’ve got just the right person when the court, like the rest of government and, frankly, like the rest of the commonwealth, is working its way through some tough times without enough resources,” Patrick said.

“His extraordinary strength of intellect and of character, his reputation for fairness, his work ethic, are all enormously important for the Supreme Judicial Court at any time, but this time in particular.”

Ireland said the primary goals of his tenure, which will last less than five years before he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70, include building public understanding of the court system and process; improving relations between the Judicial and Executive and Legislative branches; and building an effective lobbying system for court funding.

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  • Mark

    “My hope is that, as chief justice, I will bring a perspective which reflects all that I am, including my roots, my culture, my heritage and my life experience.”

    How did this guy get through law school? One of the core principles of the American legal system is that the law is eternal and is not based on the personality or personal background of the judge.

    This is true of all legal systems derived from English law.

  • Don south shore

    We need to get video into all our courts to make them transparent.

    99% of the people do NOT KNOW what is going on in their local court.

    We must get TV feeds to local cable TV and the Internet.

    Let’s get our courts out of the 1800′s and into the 21st century

  • LawGuy

    Don, both the SJC and Mass Appeals Court are video recorded. The entire public can view every argument session here: http://www.suffolk.edu/sjc/archive/index.html

    Mark, have you ever appeared before Justice Ireland? I have. As a lawyer, I have argued before him on several occasions. He has ruled in favor of some of my cases and against me in others. Although I often disagree with him, I fully acknowledge that he is an outstanding jurist. Although stare decisis (pronounced “starry DE-sigh-sis”) is, indeed, the bedrock of common law systems, most cases at the SJC have no direct precedent; that’s why they are at the SJC.

    CJ Ireland’s statements are not mutually exclusive of a respect of precedent, and I would note that CJ Roberts of the SCOTUS made similar comments in his confirmation hearings.

    I’m all for healthy debate, but baseless ad hominem attacks (“How did this guy get through law school?”) shows the writer’s own inability to craft substantive arguments.

  • Bryan

    “law is eternal and is not based on the personality or personal background of the judge”.

    While this is the intent(remove bias) of the modern legal system in the U.S.(which is based on english common law), the judicial branch has never been completely void of personality or personal background influence in judicial opinions and never will be because humans ( yes this includes judges) are subject to their personal values and actionable behaviors/decisions based on those values. This is why different jurists have different interpretations and understandings of the law and this can be witnessed throughout the myriad levels of the judicial branch ( State and Federal Superior Courts,Appeals Courts etc.)that tackle and subsequently decide on very important cases.

    And yes by god how on earth could he earn a J.D. from Columbia University, an L.L.M. from Harvard and a Ph.D. in Law ,Policy and Society from Northeastern University? The nerve of this guy to think that he has a right to be a productive citizen even though the American dream preaches this over and over and over again. Maybe he didn’t read the fine print that stipulates that the American dream is reserved for people who think that it is their divine right to access the benefits and privileges of upward socioeconomic mobility as a result of their allegedly dominant belief system and/or cultural background.

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