Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
|Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court|
|Method:||Gubernatorial appointment of judges|
|Term:||Until 70 years of age|
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is the highest court in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Formerly called the Superior Court of Judicature, the court has the distinction of being the oldest continuously functioning appellate court in the Western Hemisphere. The Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 changed the name and established the current powers of the court. It is considered to be the oldest written constitution still currently in use.
JusticesThe Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has 7 justices.
|Justice Francis Spina||1999-2016|
|Justice Robert Cordy||2001-2019|
|Justice Margot Botsford||2007-2017||Gov. Deval Patrick|
|Justice Barbara Lenk||2011-2020||Gov. Deval Patrick|
|Justice Fernande Duffly||2011-present||Gov. Deval Patrick|
|Nominee Geraldine S. Hines|
|Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants||2009-2024||Gov. Deval Patrick|
According to the Massachusetts Constitution, "all causes of marriage, divorce, and alimony, and all appeals from the judges of probate shall be heard and determined by the governor and council, until the legislature shall, by law, make other provision."
The Court consists of a Chief Justice and six Associate Justices. Each justice is appointed by the state Governor with the consent of the Governor's Council. Additionally, justices on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court hold tenure until the age of mandatory retirement, age 70.
In October 2012, political science professors Adam Bonica and Michael Woodruff of Stanford University attempted to determine the partisan outlook of state supreme court justices in their paper, State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns. A score above 0 indicated a more conservative leaning ideology while scores below 0 were more liberal. The state Supreme Court of Massachusetts was given a Campaign finance score (CFscore) which was calculated for judges in October 2012. At that time, Massachusetts received a score of -0.44. Based on the justices selected, Massachusetts was the 11th most liberal court. The study is based on data from campaign contributions by judges themselves, the partisan leaning of contributors to the judges or, in the absence of elections, the ideology of the appointing body (governor or legislature). This study is not a definitive label of a justice but rather, an academic gauge of various factors.
Removal of justices
"Massachusetts judges may be removed in one of three ways: The commission on judicial conduct investigates complaints of judicial misconduct. Following a formal hearing, the commission may recommend to the supreme judicial court removal, retirement, or reprimand of a judge. The governor, with consent of the governor's council, may remove judges upon the joint address of both houses of the general court. The governor, with consent of the governor's council, may also retire judges because of advanced age or mental or physical disability. Judges may be impeached by the house of representatives and convicted by the senate."
- Rex v. Preston (1770) - Captain Thomas Preston, the Officer of the Day during the Boston Massacre, was acquitted when the jury was unable to determine whether he had ordered the troops to fire. The defense counsel in the case was a young attorney named John Adams, later the second President of the United States.
- Rex v. Wemms, et al. (1770) - Six soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre were found not guilty, and two more — the only two proven to have fired — were found guilty of manslaughter.
- Commonwealth v. Jennison (1783) - The Court declared slavery unconstitutional in the state of Massachusetts by allowing slaves to sue their masters for freedom. Boston lawyer, and member of the Constitutional Convention of 1779, John Lowell, upon the adoption of Article I for inclusion in the Bill of Rights, exclaimed: "...I will render my services as a lawyer gratis to any slave suing for his freedom if it is withheld from him..." With this case, he fulfilled his promise, and Slavery in Massachusetts no longer had any legal standing.
- Commonwealth v. Hunt (1842) - The Court established that trade unions were not necessarily criminal or conspiring organizations if they did not advocate violence or illegal activities in their attempts to gain recognition through striking. This legalized the existence of non-socialist or non-violent trade organizations, though trade unions would continue to be harassed legally through anti-trust suits and injunctions.
- Roberts v. Boston (1850) - The Court established the "separate but equal" doctrine that would later be used in Plessy v. Ferguson by maintaining that the law gave school boards complete authority in assigning students to schools and that they could do so along racial lines if they deemed it appropriate.
- Goodridge v. Department of Public Health (2003) - The Court ruled that the denial of marriage licenses to same-sex couples violated the Massachusetts Constitution.
In December 2013, the Center for Public Integrity released a study on disclosure requirements for state supreme court judges. Analysts from the Center reviewed the rules governing financial disclosure in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as personal financial disclosures for the past three years. The study found that 42 states and Washington D.C. received failing grades. Massachusetts earned a grade of D in the study. No state received a grade higher than "C". Furthermore, due in part to these lax disclosure standards, the study found 35 instances of questionable gifts, investments overlapping with caseloads and similar potential ethical quandaries. The study also noted 14 cases in which justices participated although they or their spouses held stock in the company involved in the litigation.
History of the court
- The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has the distinction of being the oldest continuously functioning appellate court in the Western Hemisphere.
|#||Chief Justice||Took office||Left office|
|2||Nathaniel Peaslee Sargeant||1790||1791|
|6||Isaac Parker||August 24, 1814||July 25, 1830|
|7||Lemuel Shaw||August 30, 1830||August 21, 1860|
|8||George Tyler Bigelow||September 7, 1860||December 31, 1867|
|9||Reuben Atwater Chapman||February 7, 1868||June 28, 1873|
|10||Horace Gray||September 5, 1873||January 9, 1882|
|11||Marcus Morton||January 16, 1882||August 27, 1890|
|12||Walbridge A. Field||September 4, 1890||July 15, 1899|
|13||Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.||August 2, 1899||December 8, 1902|
|14||Marcus Perrin Knowlton||December 17, 1902||September 7, 1911|
|15||Arthur Prentice Rugg||September 20, 1911||June 12, 1938|
|16||Fred Tarbell Field||June 30, 1938||July 24, 1947|
|17||Stanley Elroy Qua||August 6, 1947||September 6, 1956|
|18||Raymond Sanger Wilkins||September 13, 1956||September 1, 1970|
|19||G. Joseph Tauro||1970||1976|
|20||Edward F. Hennessey||1976||April 19, 1989|
|21||Paul J. Liacos||June 20, 1989||September 30, 1996|
|22||Herbert P. Wilkins||October 1, 1996||August 31, 1999|
|23||Margaret Marshall||October 14, 1999||2010|
|24||Roderick Ireland||2010|| Incumbent|
(faces mandatory retirement on September 1, 2014)
- William Cushing later served on the U.S. Supreme Court
- Horace Gray later served on the U.S. Supreme Court
- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. later served on the U.S. Supreme Court
- News: Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court gives thumbs up to the middle finger, sometimes, January 31, 2012
- News: Former mayor to lead Massachusetts Supreme Court, January 14, 2012
- Judicial selection in Massachusetts
- Courts in Massachusetts
- Massachusetts Constitution
- Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Official Site
- List of Chief Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court
- Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and Appeals Court Decisions
- About the Supreme Court
- Supreme Judicial Court Historical Society
- Gay-Marriage Decision: Just the Beginning of the Debate
- Memoirs v. Massachusetts
- Simpson's Contemporary Quotations
- Massachusetts Constitution
- Stanford University, "State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns," October 31, 2012
- Methods of Selection: Removal of Judges
- Massachusetts Courts, "Supreme Judicial Court Case Statistics"
- Lowell, Delmar R., The Historic Genealogy of the Lowells of America from 1639 to 1899 (p 35); Rutland VT, The Tuttle Company, 1899; ISBN 9780788415678.
- Center for Public Integrity, "State supreme court judges reveal scant financial information," December 5, 2013
|Former||Margaret Marshall • John Greaney • Roderick Ireland • Judith Cowin • William Cushing • Martha Sosman • Horace Gray • Oliver Wendell Holmes • Nathaniel Peaslee Sargeant •|