Elspeth B. Cypher was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on February 26, 1959. She received a B.A., magna cum laude, from Emerson College in 1980 and a J.D., cum laude, from Suffolk University Law School in 1986, where she served on the Suffolk University Law Review. From 1986 to 1988, she was an associate at the Boston law firm of Grayer, Brown and Dilday. In 1988 she became an assistant district attorney in Bristol County, where she served for the next twelve years. From 1993 to 2000, she was chief of the appellate division of that office and argued many cases before the Supreme Judicial Court and the Appeals Court. In 2000 Governor Paul Cellucci appointed her to the Appeals Court. She took her seat as an associate justice on December 27, 2000.
For many years Justice Cypher was an adjunct professor at Southern New England School of Law (now the University of Massachusetts School of Law - Dartmouth), where she taught courses on legal writing; criminal procedure; criminal law; and women, law, and the legal system. She has participated in numerous educational programs for judges and lawyers and has written extensively about developments in criminal law in Massachusetts. Active in the Massachusetts Bar Association, Justice Cypher has served as co-chair of its criminal law section. She was the recipient of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly's Lawyer of the Year Award in 2000 for her work in the long running prosecutions of James M. Kater for the murder of Mary Lou Arruda.
In 2012, Justice Kent B. Smith asked her to co-author a fourth edition of his books in the Massachusetts Practice Series, Criminal Practice and Procedure. Before he passed away in October, 2012, she assumed responsibility for the supplement in 2013 and the fourth edition, expected to be published in 2014, promising him that she would do her very best to be worthy of the trust he placed in her.