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Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

42°21′33″N 71°03′39″W / 42.359297°N 71.060954°W / 42.359297; -71.060954
Supreme Judicial Court
of Massachusetts
Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts.png
Seal with motto "Nulli vendemus, nulli negabimus aut differemus, rectum aut justitiam" (To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice)
Established1692; 331 years ago (1692)
LocationBoston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Coordinates42°21′32.75″N 71°3′40.5″W / 42.3590972°N 71.061250°W / 42.3590972; -71.061250
Composition methodExecutive appointments with quasi-legislative consent
Authorized byMassachusetts Constitution
Appeals toSupreme Court of the United States
Judge term lengthMandatory retirement at 70 years of age
Number of positions7
WebsiteOfficial website
Chief Justice
CurrentlyKimberly S. Budd
SinceDecember 1, 2020
Lead position endsOctober 23, 2036
John Adams Courthouse, home to the SJC
John Adams Courthouse, home to the SJC

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) is the highest court in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Although the claim is disputed by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania,[1][2] the SJC claims the distinction of being the oldest continuously functioning appellate court in the Americas,[3] with a recognized history dating to the establishment of the Massachusetts Superior Court of Judicature in 1692 under the charter of the Province of Massachusetts Bay.[4][nb 1]

Although it was historically composed of four associate justices and one chief justice, the court is currently composed of six associate justices and one chief justice.

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The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court traces its history back to the high court of the British Province of Massachusetts Bay, which was chartered in 1692. Under the terms of that charter, Governor Sir William Phips established the Superior Court of Judicature as the province's local court of last resort (some of the court's decisions could be appealed to courts in England). When the Massachusetts State Constitution was established in 1780, legislative and judicial records show that the state's high court, although renamed, was a continuation of provincial high court. During and after the period of the American Revolution the court had members who were appointed by royal governors, the executive council of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress (which acted as the state's executive from 1775 to 1780), and governors elected under the state constitution.

Location and citation

The SJC sits at the John Adams Courthouse, One Pemberton Square, Boston, Massachusetts 02108, which also houses the Massachusetts Appeals Court and the Social Law Library. The legal citation for the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is "Mass."

Landmark cases

  • Rex v. Preston (1770) – Captain Thomas Preston, the Officer of the Day during the Boston Massacre, was acquitted when the jury was unable to determine whether he had ordered the troops to fire. The defense counsel in the case was a young attorney named John Adams, later the second President of the United States.[6]
  • Rex v. Wemms, et al. (1770) – Six soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre were found not guilty, and two more – the only two proven to have fired – were found guilty of manslaughter.[7]
  • Commonwealth v. Nathaniel Jennison (1783) – The Court declared slavery unconstitutional in the state of Massachusetts by allowing slaves to sue their masters for freedom. Boston lawyer, and member of the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention of 1779, John Lowell, upon the adoption of Article I for inclusion in the Massachusetts Constitution, exclaimed: "I will render my services as a lawyer gratis to any slave suing for his freedom if it is withheld from him ..."[8] With this case, he fulfilled his promise. Slavery in Massachusetts was denied legal standing.
  • Commonwealth v. Hunt (1842) – The Court established that trade unions were not necessarily criminal or conspiring organizations if they did not advocate violence or illegal activities in their attempts to gain recognition through striking. This legalized the existence of non-socialist or non-violent trade organizations, though trade unions would continue to be harassed legally through anti-trust suits and injunctions.
  • Roberts v. Boston (1850) – The Court established the "separate but equal" doctrine that would later be used in Plessy v. Ferguson by maintaining that the law gave school boards complete authority in assigning students to schools and that they could do so along racial lines if they deemed it appropriate.
  • Goodridge v. Department of Public Health (2003) – The Court ruled 4–3 that the denial of marriage licenses to same-sex couples violated the Massachusetts Constitution. The decision was stayed for 180 days to allow the legislature time to amend the law to comply with the decision. In December 2003, the state Senate asked the SJC whether "civil unions" would comply with their ruling. The SJC replied that civil unions were insufficient, and civil marriage was required. The legislature made no further action, and the stay expired on May 17, 2004. The state began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples the same day. This decision was one of the first in the world to find that same-sex couples have a right to marry.


The Court consists of a Chief Justice and six Associate Justices appointed by the Governor of Massachusetts with the consent of the Governor's Council.

The Justices hold office until the mandatory retirement age of seventy, like all other Massachusetts judges since 1972.

Current composition

The currently serving justices are:

Justice Born Joined Mandatory retirement Appointed by Law school
Kimberly S. Budd, Chief Justice (1966-10-23) October 23, 1966 (age 56) August 24, 2016 (as Associate Justice)
December 1, 2020 (as Chief Justice)
2036 Charlie Baker (R) Harvard
Frank Gaziano (1963-09-08) September 8, 1963 (age 59) August 18, 2016 2034 Charlie Baker (R) Suffolk
David A. Lowy 1959/1960 (age 62–63) August 24, 2016 2029/2030 Charlie Baker (R) Boston
Elspeth B. Cypher (1959-02-26) February 26, 1959 (age 64) March 31, 2017[9] 2029 Charlie Baker (R) Suffolk
Scott L. Kafker (1959-04-24) April 24, 1959 (age 64) August 21, 2017 2029 Charlie Baker (R) Chicago
Dalila Argaez Wendlandt 1968/1969 (age 53–54) December 4, 2020 2038/2039 Charlie Baker (R) Stanford
Serge Georges Jr. 1969/1970 (age 52–53)[10] December 16, 2020 2039/2040 Charlie Baker (R) Suffolk
Chief Justice Kimberly S. Budd
Associate Justice Frank Gaziano
Associate Justice David A. Lowy
Associate Justice Elspeth B. Cypher
Associate Justice Scott L. Kafker
Associate Justice Dalila Argaez Wendlandt
Associate Justice Serge Georges Jr.

Notable members


  1. ^ The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania disputes this, claiming to be eight years older.[5]


  1. ^ "Supreme Court - Courts - Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania". Retrieved 7 July 2017.
  2. ^ The Virginia Supreme Court was founded as a appellate Court in 1623; it became a Supreme Court in 1779; The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania was founded as a Provincial Court in 1684; it became a Supreme Court in 1722;the New York Supreme Court was established as the Supreme Court of Judicature by the Province of New York on May 6, 1691. It became the New York Supreme Court under the New York Constitutional Convention of 1846.
  3. ^ "Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts home page". Archived from the original on 2013-11-06. Retrieved 2013-10-16.
  4. ^ Eichholz, Alice (2004). Alice Eichholz (ed.). Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources (3rd Revised ed.). Ancestry Publishing. p. 316. ISBN 978-1593311667.
  5. ^ "About the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania – SCOPA Review". Archived from the original on 21 May 2017. Retrieved 7 July 2017.
  6. ^ Zobel, Hiller (1970). Boston Massacre, pp. 243–265
  7. ^ Zobel, pp. 269–286
  8. ^ Lowell, Delmar R., The Historic Genealogy of the Lowells of America from 1639 to 1899 (p 35); Rutland VT, The Tuttle Company, 1899; ISBN 978-0-7884-1567-8.
  9. ^ "Justice Margot Botsford retires from SJC". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on 19 May 2017. Retrieved 7 July 2017.
  10. ^ Lisinski, Chris (December 17, 2020). "Randolph's Serge Georges sworn in to Supreme Judicial court". The Patriot Ledger. Retrieved January 7, 2021.

Works cited

External links

This page was last edited on 19 April 2023, at 17:26
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