Roderick Ireland Profiled by Columbia Law School

Roderick Ireland Profiled by Columbia Law School

Columbia Law School recently published a profile on alum Roderick L. Ireland, former Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and Distinguished Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Northeastern University.

The piece focuses on Justice Ireland’s decision to attend Columbia Law School at a time when fewer than one percent of the nation’s lawyers were African American. It details his many contributions to social justice, his subsequent career as the first African American justice on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, and his continuing efforts to help encourage diversity in the legal field. 

When asked about his enthusiasm for working in a difficult field during the social upheaval of the 1960s he said, “I thought, almost from the beginning, I would like to be a lawyer who speaks up for disenfranchised people, for people who don’t have a voice.”

Justice Ireland served as a judge for 37 years, sitting in the Boston Juvenile Court from 1977 to 1990, the Massachusetts Appeals Court from 1990 to 1997, and the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court from 1997 to 2014.  When he was appointed an associate justice of the Supreme Judicial Court in 1997, he became the first African-American to sit on that bench in its over three hundred year history.  In 2010 he became the Court’s first African-American chief justice.

Read the full piece here.

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