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Margaret Marshall on Wednesday endorsed Roderick Ireland to replace her as chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, saying he has the intellect and collegial spirit to effectively steward the state's highest court.
Kicking off a largely ceremonial confirmation hearing by the Governor's Council, Marshall said she would retire with a "feeling of joy" in part because Ireland would succeed her.
Marshall told the council she has often sought out Ireland's advice and praised his many qualities.
"Wise, fair, understanding, these are the characteristics of his advice of which I have been the rich beneficiary," Marshall said.
Ireland then faced questioning by the nine-member council, which is headed by Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray and must approve all judicial appointments.
Marshall was the court's first female chief justice; Ireland would be its first black leader. A vote on the nomination is expected next week.
The court gained national attention in 2003 when it voted to make Massachusetts the first state to legalize gay marriage. Ireland was part of the 4-3 majority that sided with Marshall, who authored the majority opinion.
Ireland currently serves as the court's senior jurist. He was appointed to the SJC in 1997 by then-Republican Gov. William F. Weld, making him the first black justice in the 318-year history of the oldest appellate court in continuous operation in the Western Hemisphere. He previously served on the Massachusetts Appeals Court for seven years and the Boston Juvenile Court for almost 13 years.
Ireland received his bachelors from Lincoln University, his juris doctorate from Columbia University Law School, a masters from Harvard Law School and a doctorate from Northeastern University.
At 65, Ireland can serve as chief justice for just five years before reaching the court's mandatory retirement age.
The chief justice administers the seven-member court and oversees the Massachusetts trial and appellate court systems. Another key power of the chief justice is the authority to decide which justice writes an opinion.
Marshall is retiring to spend more time with her ailing husband.
This program aired on December 1, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.
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