- Supreme Judicial Court
- Massachusetts Court System
Media Contact for At Ceremonial Swearing In, Supreme Judicial Court Justice Cypher Says, "I am grateful to the women before me who broke down those barriers"
Jennifer Donahue and Erika Gully-Santiago
BOSTON, MA — Governor Charlie Baker today delivered a ceremonial administration of the Oath of Office at the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth, swearing in the Honorable Elspeth B. Cypher as Associate Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court.
“Justice Elspeth Cypher has been a dedicated public servant in the Commonwealth’s legal community for thirty years and I am confident that her wisdom and commitment to the fair application of the law will serve our Commonwealth’s highest court and all of our citizens with honor and fairness,” said Governor Baker. “As the first SJC justice from Bristol County in over a century, we congratulate Justice Cypher on her elevation to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and wish the best for her and her esteemed colleagues.”
“Justice Cypher is an intelligent legal mind with the common sense and compassion to best serve those who have their cases before the Supreme Judicial Court, her colleagues and the judicial system,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito.
"I will do the very best I can to honor and fulfill the role of being a justice on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and I look forward to working with my new colleagues there," said Justice Cypher.
"I am grateful, so very grateful, that I was not born in 1859 but in 1959," Justice Cypher said, recounting the history of those who sought to become lawyers in the late 1800s, when women were denied admission to the Bar and were not permitted to argue cases in court. "I am grateful to the women who went before me who broke down those barriers. To Leila Robinson, the first woman lawyer in Massachusetts." After graduating from law school, Robinson was denied admission to the Massachusetts Bar in Suffolk County in June 1881, argued her case before the Supreme Judicial Court, then took her fight to Legislature, where Legislation passed "allowing the representation of all classes of the people in courts of justice."
Justice Cypher recounted Massachusetts history, and the legacy of John Adams, after whom the courthouse in Boston where the Supreme Judicial Court hears cases is named.
"I am grateful that I came to Massachusetts and could make this my home," she said. "I am grateful for the rich, deep, role Massachusetts has played in the formation of our country. I am grateful for John and Abigail Adams, for giving us a strong, solid, and independent judiciary.
I am grateful that, after the Boston Massacre, John Adams represented the British soldiers in court, even though they were British soldiers. Our country was made stronger by this example: this is how you treat the enemy, this is how you treat the accused, this is how you treat those you fear, who have hurt you. This is what a fair legal system looks like."
Justice Cypher talked about the major influence Governor Paul Cellucci, who appointed her to the bench in in 2000, had on her life and career, reading from his second inaugural address, in which he said: “We must avoid the danger of futility by understanding that one person can make a difference. Our destiny will be determined not by government alone, but by individual will, personal responsibility, and responsible citizenship.”
"I will strive, as I know we all will, to reject feelings of futility and to continue to attempt to fulfill the ideals of John Adams," said Justice Cypher.
Regional Administrative Justice and First Justice of the Taunton District Court Kevan J. Cunningham delivered opening remarks, followed by Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants, and Appeals Court Chief Justice Scott L. Kafker.
Following a special musical interlude by the Seekonk School of Rock, Governor Baker and Lieutenant Governor Polito each delivered remarks; Justice Cypher addressed the gathered crowd after Governor Baker administered the ceremonial Oath of Office.
Justice Cypher was administered the official oath on March 31, 2017, following the retirement of Supreme Judicial Court Associate Justice Margot Botsford, who vacated her seat on March 15, having reached the mandatory retirement age of 70.
Justice 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, and 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 was published in 2014.