Press Release

Press Release The SJC on its 325th: The Chiefs Reflect

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  • Supreme Judicial Court
  • Massachusetts Court System

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Jennifer Donahue and Erika Gully-Santiago

BOSTON, MAAt an event in the Great Hall of the John Adams Courthouse, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court today celebrated the 325th anniversary of its founding in 1692.

In honor of this anniversary, the four living Chief Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court participated in a round-table discussion moderated by WBUR's Tom Ashbrook.

Chief Justice Ralph Gants, Hon. Roderick Ireland (Ret.), Hon. Margaret Marshall (Ret.) and Hon. Herbert Wilkins (Ret.), discussed challenges and achievements as Chief Justices, of the Court, and their views on the role of the judiciary in government and society. The four Chief Justices have a combined 98 years of judicial experience. Their discussion provided them an opportunity to reflect together on that experience, and the audience to hear from four Chief Justices who have each held the highest position in the Massachusetts court system since 1996.

On November 25, 1692, the General Court passed legislation creating the Superior Court of Judicature and various lower courts. The five Justices of the newly-established Superior Court of Judicature sat for the first time on January 3, 1693, in Salem. The Supreme Judicial Court, originally called the Superior Court of Judicature, was established in 1692 and is the oldest appellate court in continuous existence in the Western Hemisphere. After the adoption of the Massachusetts Constitution in 1780, the name of the Court was changed to the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC). The SJC operates under the oldest, still functioning written constitution in the world.

The Supreme Judicial Court is the Commonwealth's highest appellate court. The Court consists of a Chief Justice and six Associate Justices appointed by the Governor with the consent of the Governor's Council. The seven Justices hear appeals on a broad range of criminal and civil cases from September through May. The full bench renders approximately 200 written decisions each year; the single justices decide a total of approximately 600 cases annually.



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Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court 

The SJC is the Commonwealth's highest appellate court.

Massachusetts Court System 

The Massachusetts court system consists of the Supreme Judicial Court, the Appeals Court, the Executive Office of the Trial Court, the 7 Trial Court departments, the Massachusetts Probation Service, and the Office of Jury Commissioner.


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