Roderick L. Ireland

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Roderick L. Ireland
Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
In office
December 20, 2010 – July 25, 2014
Nominated by Deval Patrick
Preceded by Margaret H. Marshall
Succeeded by Ralph Gants
Associate Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
In office
1997 – December 19, 2010
Nominated by William Weld
Succeeded by Fernande R.V. Duffly
Personal details
Born (1944-12-03) December 3, 1944 (age 69)
Springfield, Mass.
Alma mater Lincoln University
Columbia Law School
Harvard Law School
Northeastern University

Roderick L. Ireland (born December 3, 1944[1]) is a former Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. He was nominated for Chief Justice by Governor Deval Patrick on November 4, 2010,[2] and sworn in on December 20.[3] He has announced his retirement effective July 25, 2014.[4] He was previously an Associate Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court, appointed in 1997 by Governor William Weld. Prior to that appointment, he served on the Massachusetts Court of Appeals from 1990-1997 and the Boston Juvenile Court from 1977-1990. He was appointed to both courts by Governor Michael Dukakis. He is the first African-American associate justice and also the first African-American chief justice of the Massachusetts high court. He resigned from the high court in 2014, and was replaced by Associate Justice Ralph Gants.

Chief Justice Ireland graduated from Lincoln University with a B.A. in 1966, from Columbia Law School with a J.D. in 1969, from Harvard Law School with an LL.M. in 1975, and from Northeastern University's Law, Policy, and Society Program with a Ph.D. in 1998.[5]

Previous Legal Employment: (1969) Staff Attorney, Neighborhood Legal Services; (1970) Harvard Center for Law and Education; (1971–74) Chief Attorney, Deputy Director and Executive Director, Roxbury Defenders Committee; (1975–77) Chief Counsel, Executive Office of Administration & Finance; (1977) Chairman, Bd. of Appeals on Motor Vehicle Liability, Policies and Bonds

Teaching Positions: (1978–present) Northeastern University School of Criminology and Criminal Justice; (2001–present) New York University School of Law Appellate Judges Seminar; (1978-2004) Northeastern University School of Law; (1982-1983) Boston University School of Law; (1975) University of Massachusetts; (1972-1977) Harvard University Law School

Court-Related Activities: Chair, Supreme Judicial Court Committee on Fee-Generating Appointments; Chair, Supreme Judicial Court Committee on Delay in Child Custody Cases; (1990–present) Program Chair, Judicial Youth Corps.

Professional Associations: Mass. Black Judges Conference; Mass. Bar Assn.; Boston Bar Assn.; American Law Institutes Restatement on Employment Law

Civic Activities: Bd. of Visitors, Columbia Law School; Corporate Member, Northeastern Univ.; Eliot Church of Roxbury

Published Works: Volume 44-44A, Mass. Practice Series, Juvenile Law (2d edition, 2006), originally published as Vol. 44. (1993, Supp. 1995, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013); "The Roxbury Defenders Committee: Reflections on the Early Years," 95 Massachusetts Law Review 153 (2013); "In Goodridge's Wake: Reflections on the Political, Public, and Personal Repercussions of the Massachusetts Same-Sex Marriage Cases," 85 New York University Law Review (2010); "How We Do It In Massachusetts: An Overview of How the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Interprets its State Constitution to Address Contemporary Legal Issues," 38 Val. U.L. Rev. 405 (2004)

Hobbies and Interests: Jazz; Walking; Antiques; Sports; Reading

Honors and Awards: Haskell Cohn Judicial Excellence Award, Boston Bar Assn., 1990; Award for Judicial Excellence, Mass. Judges Conference, 1996; Judicial Excellence, Mass. Academy of Trial Attorneys, 1999; Excellence in the Law Award, Mass. Bar Assn. and Mass. Lawyer’s Weekly, 2001; Great Friend of Justice Award, Mass. Bar Foundation, 2008

Editor’s Note: Also admitted to New York Bar (1970)



  • Lawyers Diary and Manual, Judicial Biographies, Updated June 2013
Legal offices
Preceded by
Francis O'Connor
Associate Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
Succeeded by
Fernande R.V. Duffly
Preceded by
Margaret H. Marshall
Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
Succeeded by
Ralph Gants