Addressing the legal community at the Massachusetts Bar
Association's Bench-Bar Symposium on Oct. 16, Supreme Judicial
Court (SJC) Chief Justice Roderick L. Ireland - who is nearing the
mandatory retirement age of 70 - announced he will step down
sometime within the next year.
"It has been the highest honor and privilege to serve with my
wonderfully talented colleagues on the SJC," Ireland said in his
annual address at the John Adams Courthouse in Boston. "I have
learned a lot from them and from the many gifted judges and
employees in the under-branches."
Ireland turns 70 in December 2014, but said he has not decided
exactly when he will retire.
Speaking to a standing-room only audience that included members of
the judiciary, the Governor's Council, the Massachusetts Bar
Association and the Association of Magistrates and Assistant
Clerks, Ireland said that many of the court positions and services
that were eliminated in the post-2008 fiscal crisis have been
"Although we are not truly out of the woods, the picture today is
much brighter than it was when I began," he said.
He thanked Gov. Deval L. Patrick and the Legislature for
increasing the courts' budget and approving judicial pay raises.
Ireland also thanked the leadership of the Massachusetts Bar
Association for supporting the courts' budget proposals.
Ireland was appointed an associate justice of the SJC in 1997 -
the first African-American to serve on the SJC - and became senior
associate justice in 2008. In 2010, he was appointed chief
Massachusetts Bar Association President Douglas K. Sheff, who
introduced the chief justice, said that the governor had described
Ireland as the "right man at the right time" to be appointed to
that position. "Man, was he right," said Sheff.
"The public's confidence depends on a trusting relationship
between the bench and the bar," said Sheff, who described the level
of "positive cooperation" between the bench and the bar as
Recounting the story about how Ireland's high school guidance
counselor once recommended he become an auto mechanic, Sheff called
Ireland a "master mechanic for justice" who has "rebuilt the engine
of an entire legal system."
Prior to introducing Ireland, Sheff unveiled an initiative, "12
for 12," in which 12,000 lawyers will be asked to reach out to 12
non-lawyer clients each, to urge legislators to support adequate
funding for the courts.
Ireland said he was pleased that significant progress has been
made in three major initiatives he announced when he was appointed
chief justice: building bridges to the governor and Legislature;
broadening access to justice by making courts more accessible and
transparent; and educating the public, especially youth, about the
role of the judicial branch.
The chief justice cited several new efforts to improve public
access to the courts, reduce backlogs and expedite judicial
- Court service kiosks, which will provide information in several
languages to members of the public about the judicial process, as
well as legal forms. The kiosks will debut soon in a pilot program
in several courts, he said.
- A new judicial website, providing online information and legal
forms for downloading.
- An electronic court filing system for both trial and appellate
Ireland praised recent legislation that replaced the single
position of chief justice for administration and management with
two new positions: chief justice of the Trial Court and court
Trial Court Chief Justice Paula M. Carey, in her first remarks to
the bar since assuming the position in July, pledged to work
closely with Court Administrator Lewis H. "Harry" Spence.
"The system deserves strong and effective leadership," she said,
"and Harry and I are committed to leading with one voice."