Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

Coordinates: 42°21′33″N 71°03′39″W / 42.359297°N 71.060954°W / 42.359297; -71.060954

Supreme Judicial Court
of Massachusetts
Established 1692
Country Massachusetts Massachusetts, United States United States
Location Boston, Massachusetts
Composition method Executive appointments with quasi-legislative consent
Authorized by Massachusetts Constitution
Decisions are appealed to Supreme Court of the United States
Website Official website
Chief Justice
Currently Ralph Gants
Since July 28, 2014
John Adams Courthouse, home to the SJC

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) is the highest court in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The SJC has the distinction of being the oldest continuously functioning appellate court in the Americas,[1] with a recognized history dating to the establishment of the Massachusetts Superior Court of Judicature in 1692 under the charter of the Province of Massachusetts Bay.[2]

Although it was historically composed of four associate justices and one chief justice, the court is currently composed of six associate justices and one chief justice.


The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court traces its history back to the high court of the British Province of Massachusetts Bay, which was chartered in 1692. Under the terms of that charter, Governor Sir William Phips established the Superior Court of Judicature as the province's local court of last resort (some of the court's decisions could be appealed to courts in England). When the Massachusetts State Constitution was established in 1780, legislative and judicial records show that the state's high court, although renamed, was a continuation of provincial high court. During and after the period of the American Revolution the court had members who were appointed by royal governors, the executive council of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress (which acted as the state's executive from 1775 to 1780), and governors elected under the state constitution.

Location and citation

The SJC sits at the John Adams Courthouse, One Pemberton Square, Boston, Massachusetts 02108, which also houses the Massachusetts Appeals Court and the Social Law Library. The proper legal citation for the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is "Mass."

Landmark cases


The Court consists of a Chief Justice and six Associate Justices appointed by the Governor of Massachusetts with the consent of the Governor's Council. The Justices hold office until the mandatory retirement age of seventy, like all other Massachusetts judges.

Current composition

The currently serving justices are:

JusticeBegan active
Gants, RalphRalph Gants2009 (Assoc.)
2014 (Chief)
Deval Patrick (both)
Botsford, MargotMargot Botsford2007Deval Patrick
Lenk, BarbaraBarbara Lenk2011[6]Deval Patrick
Hines, GeraldineGeraldine Hines2014Deval Patrick
Gaziano, FrankFrank Gaziano2016Charlie Baker
Lowy, David A.David A. Lowy2016Charlie Baker
Budd, KimberlyKimberly Budd2016Charlie Baker

Notable members

List of Chief Justices

# Chief Justice Took office Left office Appointed by Notes
1 William Stoughton 1692 1701 Sir William Phips Died in office.
2 Wait Winthrop 1701 1701 Governor's Council Resigned.
3 Isaac Addington 1702 1703 Joseph Dudley Resigned.
4 Wait Winthrop 1708 1717 Joseph Dudley Died in office.
5 Samuel Sewall 1718 1728 Samuel Shute Resigned.
6 Benjamin Lynde, Sr. 1729 1745 William Burnet Died in office.
7 Paul Dudley 1745 1751 William Shirley Died in office.
8 Stephen Sewall 1752 1760 William Shirley Died in office.
9 Thomas Hutchinson 1761 1769 Francis Bernard Resigned.
10 Benjamin Lynde, Jr. 1769 1771 Thomas Hutchinson Resigned.
11 Peter Oliver 1772 1775 Thomas Hutchinson Forced out by the revolution.
12 John Adams 1775 1776 Governor's Council Adams accepted the appointment for political reasons, but never sat on the court and eventually resigned.
13 William Cushing 1777 1789 Governor's Council Resigned upon appointment to the United States Supreme Court.
14 Nathaniel Peaslee Sargent 1790 1791 John Hancock Died in office.
15 Francis Dana 1791 1806 John Hancock Resigned.
16 Theophilus Parsons 1806 1813 Caleb Strong Died in office.
17 Samuel Sewall 1814 1814 Caleb Strong Died in office.
18 Isaac Parker 1814 1830 Caleb Strong Died in office.
19 Lemuel Shaw 1830 1860 Levi Lincoln, Jr. Resigned.
20 George Tyler Bigelow 1860 1867 Nathaniel Prentice Banks Resigned.
21 Reuben Atwater Chapman 1868 1873 Alexander H. Bullock Died in office.
22 Horace Gray 1873 1882 William B. Washburn Resigned upon appointment to the United States Supreme Court.
23 Marcus Morton 1882 1890 John D. Long Resigned.
24 Walbridge A. Field 1890 1899 John Q. A. Brackett Died in office.
25 Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. 1899 1902 Roger Wolcott Resigned upon appointment to the United States Supreme Court.
26 Marcus Perrin Knowlton 1902 1911 Winthrop M. Crane Resigned.
27 Arthur Prentice Rugg 1911 1938 Eugene Foss Died in office.
28 Fred Tarbell Field 1938 1947 Charles F. Hurley Resigned.
29 Stanley Elroy Qua 1947 1956 Robert F. Bradford Resigned.
30 Raymond Sanger Wilkins 1956 1970 Christian Herter Resigned.
31 G. Joseph Tauro 1970 1976 Francis W. Sargent Resigned.
32 Edward F. Hennessey 1976 1989 Michael Dukakis Resigned.
33 Paul J. Liacos 1989 1996 Michael Dukakis Resigned.
34 Herbert P. Wilkins 1996 1999 William Weld Resigned.
35 Margaret H. Marshall 1999 2010 Paul Cellucci Resigned.
36 Roderick L. Ireland 2010 2014 Deval Patrick Resigned.
37 Ralph Gants 2014 incumbent Deval Patrick

Associate justices appointed by royal governors (1692–1775)

All judges appointed before 1695 were reappointed in that year (except John Richards, who had died) because the legislation creating the court was vetoed in that year by the Privy Council. Several further attempts to legislate the court's existence were vetoed, and it was not until 1699 that the provincial assembly enacted laws creating courts that satisfied the Privy Council.

Justice Began active
Ended active
Danforth, ThomasThomas Danforth16921699Sir William Phips Died in office.
Winthrop, WaitWait Winthrop16921701Sir William Phips Promoted to chief justice; resigned in 1702. Winthrop rejoined the court as chief justice in 1708, and died while holding that office in 1717.
Richards, JohnJohn Richards16921694Sir William Phips Died in office.
Sewall, SamuelSamuel Sewall16921718Sir William Phips Promoted to chief justice; resigned 1728.
Cooke, Sr., ElishaElisha Cooke, Sr.16951702William Stoughton Died in office.
Walley, JohnJohn Walley17001712William Stoughton Died in office.
Saffin, JohnJohn Saffin17011702Governor's Council Appointment not renewed upon the accession of Queen Anne.
Hathorne, JohnJohn Hathorne17021712Joseph Dudley Resigned.
Leverett, JohnJohn Leverett17021708Joseph Dudley Resigned.
Curwin, JonathanJonathan Curwin17081715Joseph Dudley Appointment not renewed upon the accession of King George I.
Lynde, Sr., BenjaminBenjamin Lynde, Sr.17121729Joseph Dudley Promoted to chief justice; died in office, 1745.
Thomas, NathanielNathaniel Thomas17121718Joseph Dudley Died in office.
Davenport, AddingtonAddington Davenport17151736 Died in office.
Quincy, EdmundEdmund Quincy17181737Samuel Shute Resigned.
Dudley, PaulPaul Dudley17181745Samuel Shute Promoted to chief justice; died in office, 1751.
Cushing, JohnJohn Cushing17281733William Burnet Resigned.
Remington, JonathanJonathan Remington17331745Jonathan Belcher Died in office.
Saltonstall, RichardRichard Saltonstall17361756Jonathan Belcher Resigned.
Graves, ThomasThomas Graves17371738Jonathan Belcher Resigned.
Sewall, StephenStephen Sewall17391752Jonathan Belcher Promoted to chief justice; died in office, 1760.
Hubbard, NathanielNathaniel Hubbard17451746William Shirley
Lynde, Jr., BenjaminBenjamin Lynde, Jr.17471769William Shirley Promoted to chief justice; resigned, 1771.
Cushing, Jr., JohnJohn Cushing, Jr.17471771William Shirley Resigned.
Russell, ChambersChambers Russell17521766Spencer Phips Died in office.
Oliver, PeterPeter Oliver17561772William Shirley Promoted to chief justice; forced out during revolution, 1775.
Trowbridge, EdmundEdmund Trowbridge17671775Francis Bernard Forced out during revolution.
Hutchinson, FosterFoster Hutchinson17711775Thomas Hutchinson Forced out during revolution.
Ropes, NathanielNathaniel Ropes17721774Thomas Hutchinson Died in office.
Cushing, WilliamWilliam Cushing17721777Thomas Hutchinson Survived reorganization of the court, 1775; promoted to chief justice, 1777; resigned upon appointment to United States Supreme Court, 1789.
Brown, WilliamWilliam Brown17741775Thomas HutchinsonBrown's appointment was approved during the tenure of Governor Thomas Gage, but was made by Hutchinson. Brown was forced out during the revolution.

Justices appointed by the Provincial Congress (1775–1780)

Justice Began active
Ended active
Adams, JohnJohn Adams1775 1776 Adams never sat with the court, and resigned in 1776.
Sargent, NathanielNathaniel Sargent17751791Appointed chief justice by John Hancock in 1790.
Reed, WilliamWilliam Reed1775RefusedReed refused the appointment.
Paine, Robert TreatRobert Treat Paine1776RefusedPaine refused the appointment.
Warren, JamesJames Warren1776RefusedWarren refused the appointment.
Foster, JedediahJedediah Foster17761779Died in office.
Sullivan, JamesJames Sullivan17761807Resigned to become governor.
Sewall, DavidDavid Sewall17771789Resigned to become judge of the United States District Court for Maine.

Associate justices appointed under the state constitution (1780-present)

Justice Began active
Ended active
Abrams, RuthRuth Abrams19782000Michael Dukakis
Allen, WilliamWilliam Allen18811891John Davis LongDied in office.
Allen, CharlesCharles Allen18821898John Davis LongResigned.
Ames, SethSeth Ames18691881William ClaflinResigned.
Barker, JamesJames Barker18911905William E. RussellDied in office.
Bigelow, George TylerGeorge Tyler Bigelow18501860George N. BriggsPromoted to chief justice.
Botsford, MargotMargot Botsford2007incumbentDeval Patrick
Bradbury, TheophilusTheophilus Bradbury17971803Increase SumnerRemoved due to physical infirmity.
Braley, HenryHenry Braley19021929Winthrop M. CraneDied in office.
Braucher, RobertRobert Braucher19711981Francis W. Sargent
Budd, KimberlyKimberly Budd 2016 incumbent Charlie Baker
Carroll, JamesJames Carroll19151932David I. WalshDied in office.
Chapman, Reuben AtwaterReuben Atwater Chapman18601868Nathaniel Prentice BanksPromoted to chief justice.
Colburn, WaldoWaldo Colburn18821885John Davis LongDied in office.
Colt, JamesJames Colt18651866John Albion AndrewResigned.
Colt, JamesJames Colt18681881Alexander H. BullockDied in office.
Cordy, Robert J.Robert J. Cordy20012016Paul Cellucci
Counihan, EdwardEdward Counihan19491960Paul A. Dever
Cowin, Judith A.Judith A. Cowin19992011Paul CellucciResigned.
Cox, LouisLouis Cox19371944Charles F. Hurley
Crosby, John C.John C. Crosby19141937David I. WalshResigned.
Cushing, CalebCaleb Cushing18521853George S. BoutwellResigned to become United States Attorney General.
Cushing, NathanNathan Cushing17901800John HancockResigned.
Cutter, R. AmmiR. Ammi Cutter19561972Christian Herter
Dana, FrancisFrancis Dana17851806John HancockPromoted to chief justice.
Dawes, ThomasThomas Dawes17921802John HancockResigned.
Decourcy, CharlesCharles Decourcy19111924Eugene FossDied in office.
Devens, CharlesCharles Devens18731877William B. WashburnResigned to become United States Attorney General.
Devens, CharlesCharles Devens18811891
John Davis LongSecond appointment; died in office.
Dewey, DanielDaniel Dewey18141815Caleb StrongDied in office.
Dolan, ArthurArthur Dolan19371949Charles F. Hurley
Donahue, CharlesCharles Donahue19321944Joseph B. Ely
Duffly, Fernande R.V.Fernande R.V. Duffly20112016Deval Patrick
Endicott, WilliamWilliam Endicott18731882William B. WashburnResigned.
Field, Fred T.Fred T. Field19291938Frank G. AllenPromoted to chief justice; resigned in 1947.
Field, Walbridge A.Walbridge A. Field18811890John Davis LongPromoted to chief justice.
Fletcher, RichardRichard Fletcher18481853George N. BriggsResigned.
Forbes, CharlesCharles Forbes18481848George N. BriggsResigned.
Foster, DwightDwight Foster18661869Alexander H. BullockResigned.
Fried, CharlesCharles Fried19951999William WeldResigned.
Gants, Ralph D.Ralph D. Gants20092014Deval PatrickPromoted to chief justice (incumbent)
Gardner, WilliamWilliam Gardner18851887George D. RobinsonResigned.
Gaziano, FrankFrank Gaziano 2016 incumbent Charlie Baker
Gray, HoraceHorace Gray18641873John Albion AndrewPromoted to chief justice.
Greaney, John M.John M. Greaney19892008Michael DukakisResigned.
Hammond, JohnJohn Hammond18981914Roger WolcottResigned.
Hennessey, Edward F.Edward F. Hennessey19711976Francis W. SargentPromoted to chief justice; resigned in 1989.
Hines, GeraldineGeraldine Hines2014incumbentDeval Patrick
Hoar, Ebenezer R.Ebenezer R. Hoar18591869Nathaniel Prentice BanksResigned to become United States Attorney General.
Holmes, Jr., Oliver WendellOliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.18821899John Davis LongPromoted to chief justice.
Hubbard, SamuelSamuel Hubbard18421848John DavisDied in office.
Ireland, Roderick L.Roderick L. Ireland19972010William WeldPromoted to chief justice; resigned in 2014.
Jackson, CharlesCharles Jackson18131823Caleb StrongResigned.
Jenney, CharlesCharles Jenney19191923Calvin CoolidgeDied in office.
Kaplan, BenjaminBenjamin Kaplan19721981Francis W. SargentResigned.
Kirk, Sr., Paul G.Paul G. Kirk, Sr.19601971Foster Furcolo
Knowlton, Marcus PerrinMarcus Perrin Knowlton18871902Oliver AmesPromoted to chief justice; resigned in 1911.
Lathrop, JohnJohn Lathrop18911906William RussellResigned.
Lenk, BarbaraBarbara Lenk2011incumbentDeval Patrick
Liacos, Paul J.Paul J. Liacos19761989Michael DukakisPromoted to chief justice.
Lincoln, Jr., LeviLevi Lincoln, Jr.18241825William EustisResigned to become governor.
Lord, OtisOtis Lord18751882William GastonResigned.
Loring, WilliamWilliam Loring18991919Roger WolcottResigned.
Lowy, David A.David A. Lowy 2016 incumbent Charlie Baker
Lummus, HenryHenry Lummus19321955Joseph B. Ely
Lynch, Neil L.Neil L. Lynch19812000Edward J. King
Marshall, Margaret H.Margaret H. Marshall19961999William WeldPromoted to chief justice; resigned in 2010.
Merrick, PlinyPliny Merrick18531864John H. CliffordResigned.
Metcalf, TheronTheron Metcalf18481865George N. BriggsResigned.
Morton, MarcusMarcus Morton18251840Levi Lincoln, Jr.Resigned to become governor.
Morton, Jr., MarcusMarcus Morton, Jr.18691882William ClaflinPromoted to chief justice.
Morton, JamesJames Morton18901913John Q. A. BrackettResigned.
Nolan, Joseph R.Joseph R. Nolan19811995Edward J. King
Paine, Robert TreatRobert Treat Paine17901804John HancockResigned.
Parker, IsaacIsaac Parker18061814Caleb StrongPromoted to chief justice; died in office.
O'Connor, Francis PatrickFrancis Patrick O'Connor19811997Edward J. KingResigned.
Pierce, EdwardEdward Pierce19141937David I. WalshResigned.
Putnam, SamuelSamuel Putnam18141842Caleb StrongResigned.
Qua, Stanley ElroyStanley Elroy Qua19341947Joseph B. ElyPromoted to chief justice; resigned 1956.
Quirico, FrancisFrancis Quirico19691981Francis W. Sargent
Reardon, PaulPaul Reardon19621977John A. Volpe
Ronan, JamesJames Ronan19381960Charles F. Hurley
Rugg, ArthurArthur Rugg19061911Curtis Guild, Jr.Promoted to chief justice; died in office.
Sanderson, GeorgeGeorge Sanderson19241932Channing H. CoxDied in office.
Sedgwick, TheodoreTheodore Sedgwick18021813Caleb StrongDied in office.
Sewall, SamuelSamuel Sewall18001814Caleb StrongPromoted to chief justice; died shortly afterward.
Sheldon, HenryHenry Sheldon19051915William Lewis DouglasResigned.
Sosman, Martha B.Martha B. Sosman20002007Paul CellucciDied in office.
Soule, Augustus LordAugustus Lord Soule18771881Alexander H. RiceResigned.
Spalding, JohnJohn Spalding19441971Leverett Saltonstall
Spiegel, JacobJacob Spiegel19601972Foster Furcolo
Spina, Francis X.Francis X. Spina19992016Paul Cellucci
Strong, SimeonSimeon Strong18011805Caleb StrongDied in office.
Sumner, IncreaseIncrease Sumner17821797John HancockResigned to become governor.
Tauro, G. JosephG. Joseph Tauro19701976Francis W. Sargent
Thatcher, GeorgeGeorge Thatcher18011824Caleb StrongResigned.
Thomas, BenjaminBenjamin Thomas18531859John H. CliffordResigned.
Wait, WilliamWilliam Wait19231934Channing H. CoxResigned.
Wells, JohnJohn Wells18661875Alexander H. BullockDied in office.
Whittemore, ArthurArthur Whittemore19551969Christian Herter
Wilde, SamuelSamuel Wilde18151850Caleb StrongResigned.
Wilkins, Herbert P.Herbert P. Wilkins19721996Francis W. SargentPromoted to chief justice; resigned in 1999.
Wilkins, RaymondRaymond Wilkins19441956Leverett SaltonstallPromoted to chief justice; resigned in 1970.
Williams, Harold P.Harold P. Williams19471962Robert F. Bradford


  1. "Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts home page". Retrieved 2013-10-16.
  2. Eichholz, Alice (2004). Alice Eichholz, ed. Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources (3rd Revised ed.). Ancestry Publishing. p. 316. ISBN 978-1593311667.
  3. Zobel, Hiller (1970). Boston Massacre, pp. 243–265
  4. Zobel, pp. 269–286
  5. Lowell, Delmar R., The Historic Genealogy of the Lowells of America from 1639 to 1899 (p 35); Rutland VT, The Tuttle Company, 1899; ISBN 978-0-7884-1567-8.
  6. Levenson, Michael (May 4, 2011). "Lenk approved for SJC; first openly gay justice on state's highest court". Boston Globe. Retrieved May 4, 2011.


External links

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