Ceremony images as Hon. Roderick L. Ireland was sworn in as the first African-American chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.
Photos by Tricia Oliver.
Ireland sworn in as chief justice
The Hon. Roderick L. Ireland was sworn in as the first
African-American chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme
Judicial Court on Monday. Gov. Deval Patrick administered Ireland's
Oath of Office, during which Ireland's 93-year-old mother held the
bible for her son.
The tone of the ceremony, held in the Great Hall of the John Adams
Courthouse, was upbeat with a musical interlude and benediction
performed by saxophonist Andre Ward and a national anthem
performance by the Boys and Girls Clubs of Dorchester.
Featured speakers included Ireland's longtime friend and
Massachusetts Bar Association Past President Wayne A. Budd, who
served as the master of ceremonies; the Rev. Doctor Evan C. Hines
Jr.; former SJC Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall (ret.); Lt. Gov.
Timothy P. Murray; and Patrick.
"It is an honor and a privilege for me to serve as master of
ceremonies," Budd said to begin the formal speaking portion of
Monday's ceremony. Budd welcomed an overflowing crowd in the Great
Among those in the crowd were former and current dignitaries from
all three branches of state government. Some included former Gov.
Michael Dukakis; Speaker of the House of Representatives Robert
DeLeo; Senate President Therese Murray; former SJC Chief Justice
Herbert Wilkins (ret.); as well as many members of the state and
federal bench, including the five current SJC justices-Francis X.
Spina, Judith A. Cowin, Robert J. Cordy, Margot Botsford and Ralph
Budd described Ireland as someone highly capable of bearing the
"heavy mantle" of chief justice. "Right out of the box, Justice
Ireland was the universal favorite of the bar and the bench" to
succeed Marshall as chief, he said. "This was no surprise to
those of us who've known him."
Budd continued, "The best part of Chief Justice Ireland is Rick
Ireland the person…he has always taken his job seriously, but never
himself too seriously." Budd went on to concur with reports
following his nomination and confirmation that Ireland is a humble
and self-effacing person.
Marshall followed Budd's introduction and characterized Ireland,
the jurist. "He speaks and writes so that he can be understood,"
she said. "For him, constitutional demands are not mere
Complementing Budd's characterization of Ireland as a person,
Marshall said "The donning of a black robe may change a man….not so
for Roderick Ireland. Wise, fair, humble and confident are the
characteristics of the man and the justice."
"Today, John Adams is certainly celebrating," she added.
Following brief remarks from Lt. Gov. Murray, Patrick personalized
the event by addressing Ireland's family; his mother, Helen, his
wife, Alice, along with his children and grandchildren in
attendance. He told them their love and support had a hand in
Ireland's professional success.
Patrick also made a point to acknowledge Marshall and her service
to the commonwealth.
He called out Ireland's "sharp intellect and sound judgment" and
made a mention of his "formidable work ethic." Patrick described
Ireland as "unfailingly kind and approachable," and said that those
attributes will be helpful with the challenges that lie
"This is the right man at the right time," said Patrick, who broke
tradition and made sure Ireland was positioned in view of his
family when taking the oath.
Following the oath, a beaming Ireland took the podium and raised
his arms. "Thank you so much," he said to sustained cheers and
applause. "This truly is a time of celebration and
Ireland is the 35th chief justice to lead the SJC, the
oldest court in continuous service in the western hemisphere,
operating under the oldest, still functioning, written constitution
in the world. Ireland's ascension to SJC chief justice follows his
already 33 years of service on the bench. Gov. Michael Dukakis
first appointed Ireland to the Boston Juvenile Court in 1977 and
then to the Appeals Court in 1990. It was Gov. William Weld who
appointed Ireland to the SJC in 1997.
"I have had the privilege and the honor of working with some of the
finest people in the world," said Ireland, who not only
acknowledged his judicial colleagues on the bench, but the
individuals behind the scenes who work together to run the
He made a special mention of his family members. First, he thanked
his mother. "I just can't say enough of what she means to me." He
also acknowledged his late father and his children and
grandchildren. He then sent a special thanks to his wife--"My dear,
sweet Alice Katherine…she's the best."
Ireland spoke to what lies ahead for him as the state's top
judge, making three points regarding the challenges that await him
as chief justice:
- "These are really tough times for the court system;
- I don't have a magic wand to fix what's broken; and
- We need to have realistic expectations for the court system and
He called for the courts to offer more transparency, especially
for those not familiar with the judicial system. He also vowed to
"work more with bar associations to advocate for the court system."
He pledged to do his best to work on what is the "right thing for
citizens of the commonwealth."
Said Ireland to close the speaking program, "I ask for your
continued help and prayers as I embark upon this journey."