- Massachusetts Probation Service
- Boston Municipal Court
Media Contact for The Roxbury Court celebrates its Bicentennial and its rich history of firsts, community collaboration, justice, and service
Coria Holland, Communications Director
Roxbury, MA — The Roxbury Division of the Boston Municipal Court (BMC) recently celebrated its Bicentennial, which was led by several legal legends who spent their early careers at the court where they were members of the Roxbury Defenders, attorneys of color who worked to bring “equal justice and high quality legal services to communities of color.”
During the Bicentennial, Judge Leslie Harris introduced retired Chief Justice Roderick Ireland and Suffolk County District Attorney Kevin Hayden welcomed Attorney Ralph Martin, former Suffolk County DA, who led a discussion about the historical importance of the court to the community and its far-reaching impact today.
Speaking before a packed audience, Chief Justice Ireland and Attorney Martin spoke about their years of work and reflected on the history of the court and its many firsts, including the court being the first site of the Intensive Care Units which are now referred to as Drug Courts.
“The Roxbury District Court was where I learned to be a lawyer and my experiences as a Roxbury Defender have stayed with me over the years. They shaped my thinking about the law and about the courts,” said Chief Justice Ireland. “I am pleased to see that the Roxbury Defenders continue to be the preeminent public defender program in the state and they have served their community extremely well for more than 50 years. I am proud and honored to have played a small role in their early years.”
The Roxbury Defenders is a public defense non-profit which was later absorbed by the state’s Committee for Public Counsel Services.
“Today is about celebrating the Bicentennial of the Roxbury Court and particularly the proud history of community collaboration, justice, and service within the Roxbury court,” said Attorney Martin, who is now an attorney at Boston law firm Prince Lobel Tye LLP.
“We were pleased to hear from two pillars of the legal community of Massachusetts: former Chief Justice Roderick Ireland and former Suffolk County District Attorney Ralph Martin, who both cut their teeth as young lawyers right here in the Roxbury Court,” said BMC-Roxbury Justice David Breen.
“The Roxbury Division of the Boston Municipal Court is proud to join the other courts of this great department in carrying out its mission statement with a commitment to restoring the human spirit through correction, education, respect, and compassion,” said Edith Alexander, a Probation Officer II at the Roxbury court.
Ms. Alexander coordinated the celebration with Judge Breen, Assistant Chief Court Officer Walter Reed, Assistant Clerk Magistrate Rochelle Burgos, Roxbury Judicial Secretary Kimberley Richardson, and Research Attorney for the Boston Municipal Courts Inaara Tajuddin.
The Bicentennial also featured artwork created by students at the Raphael Hernandez Dual Language K-8 School in Roxbury. A Flu and COVID Vaccine Clinic was set up at the courthouse. Vaccinations, boosters, and flu shots were administered by Greater Roslindale Medical and Dental and Boston Medical Center. Food was provided by the Pine Street Inn’s ICater Program.
The Roxbury Court is one of the busiest courts in the Commonwealth and it continues to be a trendsetter among the courts, according to Chief Justice Ireland and Attorney Martin. Roxbury also served as the first model for the Juvenile Court, the first child care center, and Roxbury Youth Works. Roxbury Youth Works is a community-based organization that provides support services to court-involved youths and youths through age 21.
The Boston Municipal Court was established on February 23, 1822, according to the records of the Massachusetts Trial Court. The Roxbury Court began hearing cases in 1855 when Judge Francis Hilliard presided over the court as the sole justice from May 12, 1855 to July 28, 1856, according to World Biographical Encyclopedia. The court was called the Roxbury Police Court.
A new Municipal Court was erected in Roxbury in 1902. The court’s first session was held on July 28, 1902 when Judge S.A. Bolster presided. MJ McConnell served as the clerk where he worked until he was 81 years old. According to historical records, he refused to retire even when the state’s Retirement Board voted to “retire him.” Mr. McConnell refused to abide by the board’s decision, instead asserting that he was “head of the department and a public official.” He served until his death on July 23, 1930.
The current building was built in 1967 and was renovated in 1994. The court hears criminal, civil, mental health, restraining orders and other types of cases.
The court’s jurisdiction includes parts of Jamaica Plain and Dorchester. It is a diverse area, as is the court’s staff, which includes employees who are African-American, Haitian, white, Puerto Rican, Dominican, and Cape Verdean, as well as Asian. The court is located in an area that boasts numerous prestigious colleges such as Boston University, Northeastern University, Harvard University Medical and Pharmaceutical, New England Conservatory, and the Wentworth Institute. The area also features Fenway Park and several major hospitals, including Children’s Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston Medical Center, New England Baptist, and Beth Israel Deaconess hospitals.