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 court of last resort 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. It was established in 1692. 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||Gov. Paul Cellucci|
|Justice Robert Cordy||2001-2019||Gov. Paul Cellucci|
|Justice Margot Botsford||2007-2017||Gov. Deval Patrick|
|Justice Barbara Lenk||2011-2020||Gov. Deval Patrick|
|Justice Fernande Duffly||2011-Present||Gov. Deval Patrick|
|Justice Geraldine S. Hines||2014-Present||Gov. Deval Patrick|
|Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants||2009-2024||Gov. Deval Patrick|
The court is composed of a chief justice and six associate justices. Each justice is appointed by the governor and approved by the Executive Council. Justices on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court hold tenure until 70 years old, the age of mandatory retirement.
Massachusetts' top court hears appeals of criminal and civil cases. It may issue advisory opinions if requested by the governor or state legislature. The court is also the administrative head of the state judiciary and bar. 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."
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.
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.
Removal of justices
Judges in Massachusetts may be removed from office in three different ways. If there is an allegation of misconduct, the Massachusetts Commission on Judicial Conduct first investigates the complaint. The investigation is followed by a formal hearing. The commission then issues a recommendation to the Massachusetts Supreme Court that the judge, who committed the misconduct, be removed, reprimanded, or be retired from the bench. Governors may also remove a judge, once they have the approval of the governor's council, and with the joint address of both houses of the general court. Governors, again with the approval of the governor's council, may also require judges to retire from the bench, once they have reached the mandatory retirement age or due to a mental or physical disability. Judges may also face removal through impeachment by the Massachusetts House of Representatives and then by conviction by the Massachusetts Senate."
| • Court says photos secretly taken up a woman's skirt are legal (2014)||Click for summary→|
|The Massachusetts Supreme Court handed down a surprising ruling on March 5, 2014, that sent prosecutors on a mission to change a state law. The court ruled that the practice of secretly taking a photo or video up a person's clothing, which is known as "upskirting," is perfectly legal under state law.
The defendant in the case was Michael Robertson, who was arrested in 2010 for using his cell phone to take pictures and video up the skirts or dresses of female passengers on the public trolley. After the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) received multiple complaints about him, they caught him in the act by sending an undercover female officer onto the trolley. He was charged with two counts of attempting to secretly photograph a person in a state of partial nudity.
The supreme court's decision was based on the fact that a woman wearing a skirt or dress is not considered to be partially nude. Therefore, the court ruled in favor of Robertson and granted his request to dismiss the case. The ruling stated:
The court further explained that the state law "does not apply to photographing (or videotaping or electronically surveilling) persons who are fully clothed."
Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley responded to the ruling by saying, "Every person, male or female, has a right to privacy beneath his or her own clothing...If the statute as written doesn't protect that privacy, then I'm urging the Legislature to act rapidly and adjust it so it does."
- 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.
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|
|25||Ralph D. Gants||2014||Incumbent (term ends 2024)|
- 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
- Massachusetts Court System, "Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts"
- Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, "Court Decisions"
- Supreme Judicial Court Historical Society
- Massachusetts Court System, "About the Supreme Judicial Court," accessed January 29, 2015
- Mass.gov, "Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts," accessed March 24, 2015
- Massachusetts Courts, "Supreme Judicial Court Case Statistics," accessed April 7, 2015
- Stanford University, "State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns," October 31, 2012
- Center for Public Integrity, "State supreme court judges reveal scant financial information," December 5, 2013
- American Judicature Society, "Methods of Selection: Removal of Judges," accessed March 24, 2015
- WPBF.com, "Massachusetts court: 'Upskirt' photos legal," March 5, 2014
- Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
- Massachusetts Legislature, "Bill H.3934: An Act relative to unlawful sexual surveillance," accessed March 24, 2015
- NPR: The Two-Way, "Mass. Lawmakers Rework Measure That Permitted 'Upskirt' Photos," March 6, 2014
- 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.
|Former||Margaret Marshall • John Greaney • Roderick Ireland • Judith Cowin • William Cushing • Martha Sosman • Horace Gray • Oliver Wendell Holmes • Nathaniel Peaslee Sargeant •|