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Chief Justice Roderick L. Ireland Keynote Speaker at State House Recognition of Mum Bett Day, February 25, 2014
In honor of Black History Month, Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Roderick L. Ireland yesterday delivered keynote remarks at the Massachusetts State House in recognition of Mum Bett Day.
Mum Bett, also known as Elizabeth Freeman, was the first African-American woman to be set free under the Massachusetts Constitution after suing for her freedom in court in 1781. Chief Justice Ireland said that Mum Bett was "an important person in our Commonwealth's history" and noted the significance of Article I of the Declaration of Rights of the Massachusetts Constitution, written in 1780, which states "All men are born free and equal."
"Listening to her master's friends discuss the newly ratified Massachusetts Constitution, she concluded that if all people were born free and equal, so was she," Chief Justice Ireland said.
Chief Justice Roderick L. Ireland, House Chambers, State House
Mum Bett's court case, Brom and Bett v. Ashley, was later cited in the appeal of the case Quock Walker v. Jennison, heard by the Supreme Judicial Court, which set the groundwork for the end of slavery in Massachusetts. Chief Justice Ireland noted that William Cushing, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court at that time, said that "slavery is inconsistent with our own conduct and constitution."
"Massachusetts had been the first colony to legalize slavery; now it was the first state to abolish," Chief Justice Ireland said.
"Mum Bett's story illustrates how one person can make a difference," he continued. "One voice speaking out against an injustice." Noting the young people in the audience, Chief Justice Ireland said, "I want to point out that there is a lesson to be learned for all of us. One person's actions can make a difference. When something is not right, one person can set the wheels in motion to change things."
Mum Bett Day at the State House
The event was hosted by Speaker Robert DeLeo, the Massachusetts Black & Latino Legislative Caucus, Assistant Majority Leader Byron Rushing, and Representatives Smitty Pignatelli and Russell E. Holmes.
Notice: Pilot Study on Rebuttal Time
At the conclusion of the oral arguments in March 2014, the Justices will review the use of rebuttal time under the pilot study and consider whether to amend the rules to provide for rebuttal time during arguments. For more information, please contact the clerk's office.
Standing Advisory Committee Seeks Comment on Proposed Changes to Rules of Professional Conduct
The Supreme Judicial Court's Standing Advisory Committee on the Rules of Professional Conduct invites public comments on proposed revisions to the Massachusetts Rules of Professional Conduct. The Committee undertook a comprehensive review of the Massachusetts rules to consider revisions to the American Bar Association's Model Rules of Professional Conduct. The ABA's Model Rules revisions reflect recommendations made by the ABA's Ethics 2000 Commission and the ABA's Commission on Ethics 20/20.
Click here to access the report and supporting materials.