Gant sees “New generation of leadership” in the courts

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 (State House News Service) –  Judge Ralph Gants became the 37th chief justice of Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Monday, beginning a tenure as the leader of the judicial branch that could last well into the next decade.

“By the end of this year, six of our seven trial court departments will have new chief justices. We are truly embarking on a new generation of leadership,” Gants said.

A Lexington resident first appointed to the SJC by Gov. Deval Patrick in 2009, Gants succeeds Chief Justice Roderick Ireland who stepped down on July 25, a few months before reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70.

Gants, 59, was first appointed a judge in 1997 by former Gov. William Weld. Gants is now not only the first Jewish chief justice, but also pointed out that he’s the first chief to play in an “over-the-hill soccer league.”

Justice Margot Botsford served as master of ceremonies for the swearing-in ceremony. “As in Superior Court, Ralph made a swift transition from being newbie to becoming a pillar of the court,” Botsford said.

Friends, family and colleagues of Gants packed the Adams Courthouse and lined the open balconies looking onto the building’s main hall.

“He is known as gracious, humble and funny, and he understands that the law needs to be just and to make sense in the lives of real people ” Gov. Patrick said of Gants, the second man he has appointed chief justice.

Botsford also commented on Patrick’s impact on the makeup of the court, calling him a “governor of firsts” for appointing the first black chief justice, the first Asian-American justice and the first openly gay justice. Gants himself later mentioned that when Geraldine Hines, a black woman, is sworn into the court next week, the SJC will be majority women.

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