|Supreme Judicial Court|
|Location||Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.|
|Composition method||Executive appointments with quasi-legislative consent|
|Authorized by||Massachusetts Constitution|
|Appeals to||Supreme Court of the United States|
|Judge term length||Mandatory retirement at 70 years of age|
|Number of positions||7|
|Currently||Kimberly S. Budd|
|Since||December 1, 2020|
|Lead position ends||October 23, 2036|
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) is the highest court in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Although the claim is disputed by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, the SJC claims the distinction of being the oldest continuously functioning appellate court in the Americas, with a recognized history dating to the establishment of the Massachusetts Superior Court of Judicature in 1692 under the charter of the Province of Massachusetts Bay.[nb 1]
Although it was historically composed of four associate justices and one chief justice, the court is currently composed of six associate justices and one chief justice.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court traces its history back to the high court of the British Province of Massachusetts Bay, which was chartered in 1692. Under the terms of that charter, Governor Sir William Phips established the Superior Court of Judicature as the province's local court of last resort (some of the court's decisions could be appealed to courts in England). When the Massachusetts State Constitution was established in 1780, legislative and judicial records show that the state's high court, although renamed, was a continuation of provincial high court. During and after the period of the American Revolution the court had members who were appointed by royal governors, the executive council of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress (which acted as the state's executive from 1775 to 1780), and governors elected under the state constitution.
Location and citation edit
The SJC sits at the John Adams Courthouse, One Pemberton Square, Boston, Massachusetts 02108, which also houses the Massachusetts Appeals Court and the Social Law Library. The legal citation for the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is "Mass."
Landmark cases edit
- 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. Nathaniel 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 Massachusetts Constitutional Convention of 1779, John Lowell, upon the adoption of Article I for inclusion in the Massachusetts Constitution, 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. Slavery in Massachusetts was denied 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 4–3 that the denial of marriage licenses to same-sex couples violated the Massachusetts Constitution. The decision was stayed for 180 days to allow the legislature time to amend the law to comply with the decision. In December 2003, the state Senate asked the SJC whether "civil unions" would comply with their ruling. The SJC replied that civil unions were insufficient, and civil marriage was required. The legislature made no further action, and the stay expired on May 17, 2004. The state began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples the same day. This decision was one of the first in the world to find that same-sex couples have a right to marry.
The Justices hold office until the mandatory retirement age of seventy, like all other Massachusetts judges since 1972.
Current composition edit
The currently serving justices are:
|Justice||Born||Joined||Mandatory retirement||Appointed by||Law school|
|Kimberly S. Budd, Chief Justice||October 23, 1966||August 24, 2016 (as Associate Justice)
December 1, 2020 (as Chief Justice)
|2036||Charlie Baker (R)||Harvard|
|Frank Gaziano||September 8, 1963||August 18, 2016||2034||Charlie Baker (R)||Suffolk|
|David A. Lowy||1959 or 1960 (age 63–64)||August 24, 2016||2029/2030||Charlie Baker (R)||Boston|
|Elspeth B. Cypher||February 26, 1959||March 31, 2017||2029||Charlie Baker (R)||Suffolk|
|Scott L. Kafker||April 24, 1959||August 21, 2017||2029||Charlie Baker (R)||Chicago|
|Dalila Argaez Wendlandt||1968 or 1969 (age 54–55)||December 4, 2020||2038/2039||Charlie Baker (R)||Stanford|
|Serge Georges Jr.||1969 or 1970 (age 52–53)||December 16, 2020||2039/2040||Charlie Baker (R)||Suffolk|
Chief Justice Kimberly S. Budd
Associate Justice Frank Gaziano
Associate Justice David A. Lowy
Associate Justice Elspeth B. Cypher
Associate Justice Scott L. Kafker
Associate Justice Dalila Argaez Wendlandt
Associate Justice Serge Georges Jr.
Vacancy and pending nomination edit
|Seat||Seat last held by||Vacancy reason||Date of vacancy||Nominee||Date of nomination|
|—||Elspeth B. Cypher||Retirement||January 12, 2024||–||–|
Notable members edit
- William Cushing, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States (1790–1810)
- Charles Devens, United States Attorney General (1877–81)
- Charles Fried, United States Solicitor General (1985–89)
- Horace Gray, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States (1882–1902)
- Ebenezer R. Hoar, United States Attorney General (1869–70)
- Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States (1902–32)
- Lemuel Shaw, Chief Justice, father-in-law of Herman Melville
- Theophilus Parsons, Federalist leader, Constitutional scholar
- "Supreme Court - Courts - Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania". Retrieved 7 July 2017.
- The Virginia Supreme Court was founded as a appellate Court in 1623; it became a Supreme Court in 1779; The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania was founded as a Provincial Court in 1684; it became a Supreme Court in 1722;the New York Supreme Court was established as the Supreme Court of Judicature by the Province of New York on May 6, 1691. It became the New York Supreme Court under the New York Constitutional Convention of 1846.
- "Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts home page". Archived from the original on 2013-11-06. Retrieved 2013-10-16.
- Eichholz, Alice (2004). Alice Eichholz (ed.). Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources (3rd Revised ed.). Ancestry Publishing. p. 316. ISBN 978-1593311667.
- "About the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania – SCOPA Review". Archived from the original on 21 May 2017. Retrieved 7 July 2017.
- Zobel, Hiller (1970). Boston Massacre, pp. 243–265
- Zobel, pp. 269–286
- Lowell, Delmar R., The Historic Genealogy of the Lowells of America from 1639 to 1899 (p 35); Rutland VT, The Tuttle Company, 1899; ISBN 978-0-7884-1567-8.
- Andersen, Travis (August 13, 2016). "SJC justices retire; 3 judges to be sworn in". The Boston Globe.
- "Justice Margot Botsford retires from SJC". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on 19 May 2017. Retrieved 7 July 2017.
- Lisinski, Chris (December 17, 2020). "Randolph's Serge Georges sworn in to Supreme Judicial court". The Patriot Ledger. Retrieved January 7, 2021.
- Smith, Tristan (June 12, 2023). "Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Justice Elspeth B. Cypher to retire". MassLive.
Works cited edit
- Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
- List of Chief Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court (since 1801)
- Office of the Reporter of Decisions of the SJC
- Supreme Judicial Court, hdl:2452/36895. (Various documents).
- Gay-Marriage Decision: Just the Beginning of the Debate
- Memoirs v. Massachusetts
- Simpson's Contemporary Quotations
- Supreme Judicial Court Oral Arguments Archive