BOSTON (CBS/AP) – Deval Patrick, the first black governor of Massachusetts, is nominating Roderick Ireland to be the first black chief justice of the state’s Supreme Judicial Court.
Ireland, currently the senior associate justice on the high court, would replace the retiring Chief Justice Margaret Marshall if he’s confirmed by the Governor’s Council.
WBZ News Radio’s Lana Jones files her report from Boston.
Patrick made the announcement at a State House news conference with Ireland Thursday morning.
“We are making history again today,” Patrick said, noting Marshall had been the court’s first female chief justice.
Nonetheless, the governor insisted race was a “secondary or tertiary” consideration.
The president of the Masssachusetts Bar Association Denise Squillante reacts to the announcement.
WBZ News Radio’s Diane Stern speaks with Denise Squillante.
WHAT DOES THE CHIEF JUSTICE DO?
The chief justice administers the seven-member court and oversees the Massachusetts trial and appellate court systems.
A principle power is the authority to decide which justice writes an opinion. Marshall reserved that for herself in 2003 when she authored the court’s 4-3 decision to make Massachusetts the first state to legalize gay marriage.
In nominating Ireland, Patrick also gets a second appointment to the court. If he’s confirmed, Patrick will get to pick Ireland’s replacement as associate justice.
Marshall announced her retirement in July, saying she wanted to spend more time with her ailing husband, former New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis.
Patrick asked her to stay until after Tuesday’s election to avoid politicizing his selection.
The governor, a Democrat, ended up winning a second term.
WHO IS RODERICK IRELAND?
Ireland was appointed to the SJC in 1997 by then-Republican Gov. William Weld, making him the first black justice in the 318-year history of the court .
He previously served on the Massachusetts Appeals Court for seven years and the Boston Juvenile Court for almost 13 years.
He received his bachelors from Lincoln University, his juris doctorate from Columbia University Law School, a masters from Harvard Law School and a doctorate from Northeastern University.
During his swearing-in ceremony, Ireland said he would likely be the first justice mistaken for a parking valet — an incident that occurred at his daughter’s wedding two years earlier in Boston.
The son of a painter and schoolteacher, Ireland also mentioned being advised by a high school guidance counselor to try trade school instead of pursuing college.
Ireland is 65 and can be chief justice for only five years before reaching the court’s mandatory retirement age.
NOT INTERESTED AT FIRST?
He did not dispute reports that he had initially refused the nomination, laughing as he surrendered the podium to Patrick to answer.
The governor said, “I’m not going to get into all the backing and forthing.”
All court nominees in Massachusetts have to be approved by the Governor’s Council, a nine-member panel led by Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray. The process could take as little as a month.
‘ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE’
Ireland, a native of Springfield’s racially mixed Hill neighborhood, said, “My nomination says that anything is possible no matter where you come from or what your background is.”
Frederick Hurst, a black attorney and newspaper publisher who has been Ireland’s friend since childhood, beamed as he watched, saying afterward he was proud of the high achievement by someone from “the ‘hood.”
He described Ireland as both smart and funny.
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