Governor Charlie Baker delivered a ceremonial administration of
the Oath of Office on May 18 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 30 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
"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
"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 the Legislature, where legislation passed
"allowing the representation of all classes of the people in courts
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 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
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.