Skip to content
Topics
Stories

State SJC chief justice named Distinguished Professor

Mass­a­chu­setts Supreme Judi­cial Court Chief Jus­tice Roderick L. Ireland, PhD’98, has been appointed Distinguished Pro­fessor of Crim­i­nology and Crim­inal Jus­tice in the College of Social Sciences and Humanities at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity. He will join the fac­ulty full time effec­tive Aug. 27, 2014.

Ire­land, who is retiring from the bench in July, was the first African-​​American on the state’s Supreme Judi­cial Court and is widely rec­og­nized for his work on mat­ters of social jus­tice and court reform. He has served as a part-​​time instructor at North­eastern since 1978, teaching under­grad­uate and grad­uate courses in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, the School of Law, and in the Law, Policy, and Society program.

During his tenure as a member of the state’s judi­ciary, Ire­land led efforts on a number of note­worthy legal decisions, worked to improve the state’s court system, and pushed for diver­si­fying the judi­ciary and reforming the state’s pro­ba­tion depart­ment. Notably, he ruled it uncon­sti­tu­tional for teenagers facing life sen­tences to not have the pos­si­bility of parole, which changed the way juve­nile cases are han­dled statewide. Ire­land also oversaw the court’s ruling that law enforce­ment gath­ering indi­vid­uals’ cell­phone records to track their move­ment was unconstitutional.

In his new full-​​time role at North­eastern, Ire­land will leverage his deep knowl­edge and expe­ri­ence at the intersection of law, pol­i­tics, and gov­er­nance. In Spring 2015 he will lead a new course called “The Third Branch of Gov­ern­ment,” which will examine the inter­play of the judi­ciary with the leg­isla­tive and exec­u­tive branches as well as with external enti­ties like busi­ness and the media.

“Chief Jus­tice Ire­land has helped shape some of the key legal trans­for­ma­tions of our time,” said Uta Poiger, dean of the Col­lege of Social Sci­ences and Humanities.

“Stu­dents and col­leagues at North­eastern will greatly ben­efit from his immense expe­ri­ence on the bench and as chief admin­is­trator of the state’s court system, as well as his con­tri­bu­tions to legal schol­ar­ship. It is an honor to wel­come him to his new role.”

Ire­land will also expand his long­time efforts to diver­sify the judi­ciary at all levels through increased training programs and schol­ar­ship and fel­low­ship oppor­tu­ni­ties for minori­ties. He will strengthen Northeastern’s 25-​​year partnership with the Jus­tice George Lewis Ruffin Society, an orga­ni­za­tion founded in 1984 to sup­port minority professionals in the Mass­a­chu­setts crim­inal jus­tice system. Ire­land will also work with Northeastern’s Insti­tute on Race and Jus­tice, which is led by Col­lege of Social Sci­ences and Human­i­ties Asso­ciate Dean Jack McDevitt.

“After teaching at North­eastern for 36 years, I look for­ward to working with stu­dents and fac­ulty in my new, full-time role,” Ire­land said. “I am espe­cially excited about sharing my first-​​hand accounts and insights into how government oper­ates and responds to out­side forces.”

Ire­land has received numerous awards, recog­ni­tions, and hon­orary degrees throughout his career, including most recently the Boston Bar Association’s 2014 Cita­tion of Judi­cial Excel­lence. He has authored the Juve­nile Law volume of Thomson/​West Publishing’s Massachusetts Prac­tice Series as well as sev­eral law review arti­cles and arti­cles, and has been on the fac­ulty of the Appel­late Judges Sem­inar at New York Uni­ver­sity Law School since 2001. In November 2010 Ire­land pub­lished “In Goodridge’s Wake: Reflec­tions on the Polit­ical, Public, and Personal Reper­cus­sions of the Massachusetts Same-​​Sex Mar­riage Cases,” in New York Uni­ver­sity Law Review.

This past November, Ire­land shared his expe­ri­ences as a jus­tice during the 2003 Goodridge v. Depart­ment of Public Health case with the North­eastern com­mu­nity as a fea­tured pan­elist at an event titled “Gay Rights after Gay Marriage.” The event marked the sixth install­ment in the university’s educational series on civic sustainability, Conflict. Civility. Respect. Peace. Northeastern Reflects.

Ire­land has been a jurist for 37 years. The Spring­field, Mass­a­chu­setts native began his legal career in 1969 as a Neigh­bor­hood Legal Ser­vices attorney and then worked as a public defender from 1971 to 1973 with the Rox­bury Defenders Com­mittee, even­tu­ally becoming exec­u­tive director. From 1975 to 1977, he served as assis­tant secretary in the Mass­a­chu­setts Exec­u­tive Office of Admin­is­tra­tion and Finance.

In 1977, Gov. Michael Dukakis—now a Dis­tin­guished Uni­ver­sity Pro­fessor at Northeastern—appointed Ire­land as judge of the state’s Juve­nile Court, where he served for 13 years. In 1990, he was appointed as an asso­ciate justice of the Mass­a­chu­setts Appeals Court. Ire­land was first appointed as an asso­ciate justice of the Supreme Judicial Court in 1997 by Gov. William F. Weld and became the senior asso­ciate justice in 2008. In 2010, Gov. Deval Patrick appointed him as the state’s first African-​​American chief justice.

Ire­land earned his bach­elor of arts from Lin­coln Uni­ver­sity; juris doctor from Columbia Law School; master of laws from Har­vard Law School; and doctorate in law, policy, and society from North­eastern. He has served as a member of the North­eastern Uni­ver­sity Cor­po­ra­tion since 1999. His wife, Alice Alexander, J.D.’79, served as assis­tant dean and director for coop­er­a­tive edu­ca­tion at the North­eastern School of Law from 1985 to 2005.

– By Northeastern News

More Stories

Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett speaks during a confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Amy Coney Barrett is poised to continue Antonin Scalia’s legacy on the supreme court

10.26.2020

Media ‘decision desks’ face challenges for US presidential race

10.26.2020

Are COVID-19 vaccine trials ethical?

10.26.20
All Stories