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Gov. Council Approves SJC Chief Nominee Ireland

The Governor's Council voted 7-0 to back Gov. Deval Patrick’s nomination of Roderick Ireland on Wednesday. (AP)
The Governor's Council voted 7-0 to back Gov. Deval Patrick’s nomination of Roderick Ireland on Wednesday. (AP)

The Governor's Council on Wednesday afternoon approved the nomination of Roderick Ireland as chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

The panel voted unanimously, 7-0, to back Gov. Deval Patrick's nomination of the 66-year-old Ireland. One member of the panel was absent.

Carole Fiola, of Fall River, was one of the seven council members voting for confirmation.

"At this period of time with the issues facing the court and the lack of public trust, I’m convinced he’s the type of person (who) can step in and not just smooth things, but address things," Fiola said.

Systemic hiring and promotion problems in the state Probation Department have overshadowed Ireland’s nomination to the high court.

Ireland said the report on the department by independent counsel Paul Ware surprised him.

"I was struck by the dimensions and the depth of the maneuvering that went on," Ireland said.

Ireland, who has been a judge for 33 years, was appointed to the high court in 1997 by former Gov. William Weld. He was the first black justice in the 318-year history of the court and becomes its first black chief justice. He replaces Margaret Marshall, who left her office for the final time Tuesday night.

At 66, Ireland can serve as chief justice for just four years before reaching the court's mandatory retirement age.

Ireland says he has several goals for his tenure.

"Part of my job, I suppose, will be cheerleader for the court staff," he said. "Part will be to educate the public. And I hope part will be to develop a good relationship with the Legislature and the executive branch."

Patrick is expected to take only a short amount of time to name Ireland's replacement as the court's sixth associate justice.

Before being nominated, Ireland reportedly was on a list of six candidates. Two of the other candidates are already associate justices on the SJC, leaving three that have been recently fully vetted by the governor's office and seen as likely contenders: U.S. District Court Judge Patti Saris, state Appeals Court Judge Fernande Duffly and Superior Court Judge Barbara Dortch-Okara.

WBUR's Curt Nickisch, Fred Thys and Steve Brown contributed reporting.

Earlier:

This program aired on December 8, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

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