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Mass. First Black Chief Justice, Roderick Ireland, Retiring from Bench

Will Become Criminal Justice Professor at Northeastern University College of Social Sciences


Roderick L. Ireland, the first African American chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

Roderick L. Ireland, the first African American chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and a published scholar on juvenile justice, will be a professor of criminal justice in Northeastern University’s College of Social Sciences after his scheduled retirement from the bench this month.

Ireland, a native of Springfield, Mass. graduated from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania and received his Juris Doctor from Columbia Law School and a Masters degree from Harvard Law School. Ireland was a jurist for 37 years, and has been an adjunct professor at the university since 1978.

“After teaching at Northeastern for 36 years, I look forward to working with students and faculty in my new, full-​time role,” Ireland said in a statement release. “I am especially excited about sharing my first-​hand accounts and insights into how government operates and responds to outside forces.”

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Chief Justice Roderick L. Ireland.

Ireland was appointed to the Supreme Judicial Court in 1997 and was later appointed chief justice in 2010 as the first Black justice in the court’s 305-year history. Under Ireland, the court has set a standard for a number of recent ground-breaking legal issues, including the ruling in December that found it unconstitutional to sentence teenagers convicted of murder to life in prison without the possibility of parole, according to a Boston Globe article. The ruling forced the state to revise the way it treats juveniles in the criminal justice system.

In his position as a full-time professor, he will be leading a new course in spring of 2015, “The Third Branch of Government,” which according to a Northeastern press release will examine the interplay of the judiciary with the legislative and executive branches as well as with external entities such as business and media.

Ireland is the author of the Juvenile Law volume of Thomson/West Publishing’s Massachusetts Practice Series.

Ireland will join the faculty full time on Aug. 27.

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