Justice Roderick L. Ireland

Former Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts 
Interviewed by Shalanda H. Baker

Watch the video or read the transcript (PDF: 594.6KB)

About the Interview

Justice Ireland was interviewed October 28, 2022 by Shalanda H. Baker.


Roderick Ireland

Roderick L. Ireland is a graduate of the first degree granting HBCU in the United States, Lincoln University (BA), Columbia Law School (JD), Harvard Law School (LLM), and Northeastern University (PhD).  He was the first African American to sit on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in its then over three-hundred year history when he was appointed an Associate Justice to that bench in 1997, later becoming its Chief Justice in 2010.  When he retired in 2014, he marked his 37th year serving as a judge, previously sitting in the Boston Juvenile Court (1977 – 1990), and the Massachusetts Appeals Court (1990 – 1997).

Since 2014 Justice Ireland has been a Distinguished Professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Northeastern University, where he has taught for the last 45 years.  He also has been an instructor at Harvard Law School, Boston University Law School, Northeastern University School of Law, the University of Massachusetts/Boston, and New York University Law School’s Appellate Judges Seminar.  

Justice Ireland voted with the majority in the nation’s very first case in which a state’s highest appellate bench declared same-sex marriage constitutional, Goodridge v. Department of Public Health (2003).  He has lectured and spoken extensively on that topic, including giving the Sixteenth Annual Justice William J. Brennan Jr. Lecture on State Courts and Social Justice at New York University School of Law entitled, “In Goodridge’s Wake: Reflections on the Political, Public and Personal Repercussions of the Massachusetts Same-Sex Marriage Cases.”

Justice Ireland is the author of a two-volume treatise on Massachusetts Juvenile Law published by Thomson/Reuters, and also has written several law review articles. 

Based on his firsthand experience, a particular interest of Judge Ireland has been examining how the constitutionally defined and statutorily refined relationships among the three branches of government impact the judiciary’s neutrality and independence. He is also very interested in increasing the diversity of the judiciary at all levels, as well as expanding scholarship and fellowship opportunities for minorities in the law.  

Justice Ireland has advised the Massachusetts Legislature on issues related to criminal justice reform, the Cambridge Police Department on their arrest policies and procedures, and the City of Springfield’s Mayor and Police Department on police reform. He has received many honors, awards, and honorary degrees, and in Springfield, Massachusetts, the local courthouse and the street he grew up on were renamed in his honor.  

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