Governor announces chief justice nominee

FILE - In this Dec. 1, 2008 file photo, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, left, looks on as Justice Ralph Gants speaks at the Statehouse in Boston after Patrick announced Gants would replace retiring state Supreme Judicial Court Justice John Greaney. On Thursday, April 17, 2014, Patrick nominated Gants to serve as chief justice of the state's highest court. If approved, he would succeed Chief Justice Roderick Ireland, who announced in March that he would be retiring in July. (AP Photo/Lisa Poole, File)

BOSTON (AP) — Ralph Gants, an associate justice of the Supreme Judicial Court, was nominated by Gov. Deval Patrick on Thursday to serve as chief justice of the state’s highest court.

If confirmed by the governor’s council, Gants would succeed Roderick Ireland, the chief justice who announced last month that he would be retiring from the bench in July.

Patrick was scheduled to make the announcement at a news conference later Thursday.

Gants was appointed to the SJC by Patrick, a Democrat, in January 2009 after 12 years as a Superior Court judge. He was appointed to the Superior Court in 1997 by then-Republican Gov. William Weld.

Born in 1954 in New Rochelle, N.Y., Gants worked in the early 1980s as a special assistant to then-FBI director William Webster. In 1983, he became a prosecutor in the U.S. attorney’s office in Boston, and served as head of the office’s public corruption division from 1988 to 1991.

He attended Harvard University, Cambridge University in England and Harvard Law School.

Ireland, the first black chief justice in the court’s history, has served in the post since 2010.

If Gants is confirmed to succeed Ireland, Patrick would then have an opportunity to select a new associate justice for the seven-member court.

Patrick has already put an indelible mark on the court in his two terms as governor, appointing four of its current members as well as elevating Ireland to the chief justice post.

Gants has served a co-chair of the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission and chaired a panel studying jury instructions in homicide cases during his tenure on the SJC.

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