Thursday, Jul. 22, 2010
MBA President Valerie A. Yarashus (right) presents the Chief Justice Edward F. Hennessey Award to Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall in October 2009. The award has been bestowed only five times, including when it was originally given to SJC Chief Justice Hennessey in 1988.
Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall to retire in October
Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall
yesterday announced her intention to resign by the end of October
2010, citing her husband's diagnosis with Parkinson's disease as
the reason for her early retirement.
Marshall's announcement comes as the Massachusetts judicial system
continues to grapple with devastating budget reductions. She said
that her decision to resign was made in spite of budget cuts,
emphasizing that "because of the budget shortcuts, it will be
difficult for the system to live up to delivering justice."
Marshall has spoken out forcefully against budget cuts to the
justice system, citing a report developed since 2002 on resources
necessary for the courts to function in Massachusetts. Though she
commended the courts' employees for upholding justice, she stressed
that this could only work for a very short period of time, saying,
"It is very possible to run a sprint if you don't have to run a
The South African-born Harvard alumna was appointed to the Supreme
Judicial Court by former governor William F. Weld in 1996. She
pointed to the lack of justice in her childhood country as one of
the foremost reasons why she respects the freedoms and justice
accorded by the Massachusetts Constitution. Marshall saw her role
on the SJC to be extremely important to protecting those rights for
citizens of Massachusetts.
"To one who loves the law as I do, there is no greater joy than
shaping the law," she said. "My presence on this court is a great
Throughout her tenure on the court, Marshall has overseen some
controversial cases. The most famous is arguably Goodridge v.
Department of Public Health, in which the SJC approved
same-sex marriage in Massachusetts in 2003. When asked about
Goodridge, however, Marshall responded, "For me, every
case has that importance. It's difficult to know which decisions
will have great impact."
While on the SJC, Marshall has authored over 300 decisions. Though
Goodridge will inevitably stand out for many, she
mentioned three cases that she considered most important, based on
how often other courts considered her decision. These included:
- Haglund v. Philip Morris, Inc., where the SJC ruled
that a cigarette manufacturer could not defend against lung cancer
cases by asserting "unreasonable use" of the cigarette;
- Renzi v. Paredes, where the SJC ruled that a patient
could sue for a lost chance of survival due to a misdiagnosis;
- Salvas vs. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., where the SJC
ordered certification of a class action suit over lost wages and
employees' meal breaks.
Marshall stressed that she valued her time on the court and
thanked both Governor Deval Patrick and Senate President Therese
Murray for their help, as well as the associate justices of the
SJC. "I feel very privileged to serve the commonwealth," she said,
"but I take great comfort knowing that with you the court rests in
Click here to view MBA President Valerie A.
Yarashus' statement regarding Marshall's retirement