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Press Release  At Ceremonial Swearing In, Supreme Judicial Court Justice Dewar Says She “Will Never Be Going It Alone”

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Jennifer Donahue and Erika Gully-Santiago

BOSTON, MAGovernor Maura Healey today delivered a ceremonial administration of the Oath of Office in the Great Hall of the John Adams Courthouse, swearing in the Honorable Elizabeth N. Dewar as Associate Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court.

"I'm honored and proud to swear in Bessie Dewar to the state's highest court," said Governor Healey. "Justice Dewar has a distinguished career in law and public service, she brings people together, and she puts justice and the rule of law at the center of her decision making. I'm grateful to the Governor’s Council for approving her nomination, and I look forward to seeing all she will accomplish in this new role."

Justice Dewar began by expressing gratitude that the courthouse ceremony could take place. “After the past few pandemic years, I do not for a moment take for granted our being able to be together today,” Justice Dewar said. “No such gatherings were possible in 2020 to mark, as so many would have wished, the oaths of Chief Justice Budd as Chief, and of Justice Wendlandt and Justice Georges as they joined the Court. Today, this tradition resumes, and I thank you all so very much for being here with me."

Justice Dewar talked about her view that “Judges are at their most vulnerable when they go it alone—whether deciding a case based on an issue that was not briefed by the parties or departing from all existing precedent and authority.”  She noted that “this is not to say that a judge or court should not have the courage to break new ground. The Supreme Judicial Court itself, as we all know, has so famously, for centuries, and continuing to today, broken new ground and led our entire country to a greater understanding of our constitutional rights and liberties.”  She then stated that she would “never be ‘going it alone’ in the most vulnerable sense in the years to come, thanks to so many of you here today.” 

Among those Justice Dewar then thanked were the members of the bar: “I know some of the most important support I will receive in my new role will come from outside this building, from the work of advocates including many of you assembled here today. It will be your arguments to the Court that will most directly inform my work and be so very important in the hardest cases we face.” She cited the example of areas in which “many state supreme courts have sometimes chosen to follow in lockstep with the United State Supreme Court’s interpretation of analogous federal constitutional provisions.”

“The freedom of a state court to chart a different path under our own constitution is of course always open to us, but certainly the Supreme Judicial Court’s understanding of Massachusetts’ constitution, and all our laws, will be enriched by the illuminating work you as advocates will do,” Justice Dewar said.

Supreme Judicial Court Justice Serge Georges, Jr. served as Master of Ceremonies. Speakers included retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer and retired Supreme Judicial Court Justice Margot Botsford. A musical interlude was performed by Deputy State Solicitor David C. Kravitz.

Governor Healey and Lt. Governor Kimberly Driscoll each delivered remarks; Justice Dewar addressed the gathered crowd after Governor Healey administered the ceremonial Oath of Office.

Justice Dewar was administered the official oath on January 16, 2024. She filled the seat vacated by Supreme Judicial Court Associate Justice Elspeth B. Cypher, who retired from the court on January 15, 2024.

Prior to her appointment to the Supreme Judicial Court, Justice Dewar served as the Commonwealth’s State Solicitor. Justice Dewar was appointed by the Attorney General to serve as the state’s second State Solicitor in 2016. In her role as State Solicitor, she supervised the briefing and arguing of appeals by attorneys throughout the Attorney General’s Office in the Supreme Judicial Court as well as other state and federal courts, advised the Attorney General on exercising her authority to decide whether to appeal adverse decisions, and led the office’s “friend of the court” amicus brief practice, among other responsibilities. She also briefly served as Acting Attorney General in early 2023. As State Solicitor, she served ex officio as a member of the Supreme Judicial Court’s Standing Advisory Committee on the Rules of Appellate Procedure. 

Justice Dewar previously worked as an appellate and trial-level lawyer in private practice at Ropes & Gray LLP, was a civil rights advocate at the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, and served as a law clerk at all three levels of the federal judiciary, for the Honorable Stephen G. Breyer of the U.S. Supreme Court; the Honorable William A. Fletcher of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco, CA; and the late Honorable Louis H. Pollak, of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA. 

Justice Dewar earned a bachelor’s degree from Harvard College, a master’s degree from the University of Cambridge, and a law degree from the Yale Law School.


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