CHIEF JUSTICE MARGARET H. MARSHALL WILL RETIRE
Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall today announced that she will retire from the Court by the end of October, 2010, or when her successor is appointed and confirmed, whichever is sooner. Chief Justice Marshall has served on the Court for fourteen years, three as an Associate Justice and eleven as Chief Justice. She was the second woman appointed to the Court and is the first woman to serve as Chief Justice in the 318-year history of the Court.
At a press conference today in the John Adams Courthouse, Chief Justice Marshall said, "My decision to leave this Court four years before the mandatory retirement age of seventy is predicated singularly on a personal reason: my husband, Anthony Lewis, has been diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. Tony and I are both at an age when we have learned to value, value deeply, the precious gift of time. And so, with deep regret, but also with deep conviction, I will relinquish my role as Chief Justice in order that, without distraction, Tony and I may enjoy our final seasons together."
"I cannot take this step without acknowledging that it has been a wonderfully rewarding experience for me to serve the people of Massachusetts as a Justice on this historic Court, the oldest appellate court in continuous existence in our nation, which has long served to protect the rights of all of the people in this Commonwealth, impartially, fairly, equally."
Mr. Lewis, 83, is a journalist who worked at The New York Times for fifty years until his retirement in 2001.
At the outset of her tenure as Chief Justice on October 1, 1999, Chief Justice Marshall announced her determination to make the Massachusetts Judiciary a national model of judicial excellence. In 2002, with the Supreme Judicial Court's appointment of the Visiting Committee on the Management of the Courts, Chief Justice Marshall spearheaded a plan to revolutionize the administration of the trial courts by introducing modern best management practices of accountability, transparency, data-driven strategic planning, and efficiency. The judicial management reforms established during her tenure have resulted in significant decreases in case backlogs and in the length of time between the filing and resolution of cases, as well as in cost-savings throughout the trial and appellate courts.
Chief Justice Marshall also led the Supreme Judicial Court in establishing a robust program of judicial evaluation, judicial education, and judicial mentoring to ensure that all Massachusetts judges carry out their constitutional duties fairly and respectfully toward all, according to law. All Massachusetts judges, trial and appellate, are appointed with life tenure, subject to mandatory retirement at age seventy.
A passionate advocate for justice since her days as a student leader in South Africa's anti-apartheid movement, Chief Justice Marshall elevated broadening access to justice to the top of the Judicial Branch's agenda. Through her efforts, the Supreme Judicial Court established an Access to Justice Commission, a Steering Committee on Self-Represented Litigants, and, together with the Chief Justice for Administration and Management of the Trial Court, the appointment of a Special Advisor for Access to Justice in the Trial Courts.
An advocate for teaching each new generation the importance of the role of the judicial branch in our constitutional scheme, and an unabashed admirer of John Adams, drafter of the 1780 Massachusetts Constitution, she has championed the reinvigoration of civic and law-related education. The 19th Century John Adams Courthouse, home of the Supreme Judicial Court, was renovated during her tenure, winning several architectural awards. It has become a vibrant center for law-related events, welcoming some forty thousand visitors since the courthouse reopened in 2005.
Chief Justice Marshall is an influential national and international voice for promoting the rule of law and the role of independent courts in a democracy, and is the recipient of numerous honorary degrees and awards for judicial distinction.
During her time on the Court, Chief Justice Marshall authored over 300 decisions, many of them of landmark significance.
In her letter informing Governor Deval Patrick of her intended retirement, Chief Justice Marshall stated: "The rule of law, enforced by independent judges, is central to any democracy. It is an ideal to which I have devoted my life. I am honored that I have had an opportunity to work toward that ideal as a public servant of this Commonwealth."
Chief Justice Marshall thanked Governor Patrick for the "courtesies you have extended to me personally and as the head of the judicial branch." She also expressed her deep appreciation to Governor William F. Weld, who appointed her to the Supreme Judicial Court in 1999, and to Governor A. Paul Cellucci, who named her Chief Justice three years later.
Chief Justice Marshall added, "I will leave the Court with enormous respect for it and its unique role in the history of our nation, with the hope that that I have contributed to the improvement of the delivery of justice in this Commonwealth."