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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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