Eyeing retirement, SJC Chief Justice Ireland praises court improvements

Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013
Article Picture
Top: Trial Court Chief Justice Paula M. Carey and Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Roderick L. Ireland were two of the featured speakers at the 2013 MBA Bench-Bar Symposium. Middle (from left to right): SJC Chief Justice Roderick L. Ireland, Trial Court Chief Justice Paula M. Carey, MBA Chief Legal Counsel and Chief Operating Officer Martin W. Healy, MBA President Douglas K. Sheff, MBA Vice Presidents Martha Rush O'Mara and Christopher P. Sullivan, and MBA President-elect Marsha V. Kazarosian. Bottom: SJC Chief Justice Roderick L. Ireland presents his annual address to the legal community at the MBA's Bench-Bar Symposium on Oct. 16. Photos by Jeff Thiebauth.

Addressing the legal community at the Massachusetts Bar Association's Bench-Bar Symposium yesterday, Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) Chief Justice Roderick L. Ireland -- who is nearing the mandatory retirement age of 70 -- announced he would 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 Massachusetts 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 restored.

"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 MBA 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 justice.

MBA 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 chief justice.

"Man, was he right," Sheff said.

Trial Court Chief Justice Paula M. Carey, who was introduced by Ireland, also delivered a speech as part of the Bench-Bar Symposium. Carey, in her first remarks to the bar since assuming her current position in July, pledged to work closely with Court Administrator Harry Spence.

"The system deserves strong and effective leadership," she said, "and Harry and I are committed to leading with one voice."

For full event coverage, look in the November Lawyers Journal.