Court and Community News

Thursday, June 15, 2023
SJC Justice Elspeth B. Cypher to retire

newsfromcourtsMassachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) Justice Elspeth B. Cypher this week advised Gov. Maura Healey that she will retire from the court on Jan. 12, 2024. Appointed by Gov. Charlie Baker, Cypher was sworn in as an associate justice of the SJC on March 31, 2017.

“I have been privileged to have served the Commonwealth as an appellate justice for over 23 years,” said Cypher. “I have been humbled and honored by Governor Baker and Lt. Governor Polito for nominating me to the Supreme Judicial Court and by the Governor’s Council for approving the nomination. I am also deeply grateful to Governor Cellucci and Lt. Governor Swift for entrusting me with the position of associate justice on the Appeals Court. 

“Justice Cypher has brought her keen knowledge of the law and the constitution to the appellate courts for over two decades, serving on the Supreme Judicial Court for the past six years,” said SJC Chief Justice Kimberly S. Budd. “She has been an exceptional friend and colleague and an active role model to the many people who count her as a mentor. We are deeply grateful for her service to the people of the Commonwealth.”

Cypher was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 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 Review.

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 12 years. From 1993 to 2000, she was chief of the Appellate Division of that office and argued many cases before the SJC and the Appeals Court.

On Dec. 27, 2000, Gov. Paul Cellucci appointed her to the Massachusetts Appeals Court as an associate justice.

Cypher has been an adjunct professor at Suffolk University Law School. Prior to that, she taught for many years at the University of Massachusetts School of Law. She received an honorary PhD from Emerson College in 2017, an honorary J.D. from UMass in 2018, and, most recently, the Marilyn Archer Trailblazer Award in 2022.

Over the years, Cypher has written extensively about developments in criminal law in the commonwealth. Active in the Massachusetts Bar Association, Cypher has served as co-chair of its Criminal Justice Section. She was the recipient of the Green Bag's Exemplary Legal Writing award in 2018, and Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly's Lawyer of the Year Award in 2000.

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 his death, she assumed responsibility for the supplement in 2013 and for the fourth edition, which was published in 2014. Each year, she updates the annual supplement and plans to continue to do so.

“Justice Cypher’s retirement announcement brings to a close a truly remarkable career in the courtroom. Justice Cypher’s penchant for scholarly analysis over her nearly 24 years as an appellate jurist, including the last six as a member of the SJC, has left an indelible mark on Massachusetts’ jurisprudence,” said MBA Chief Legal Counsel Martin W. Healy. “We congratulate Justice Cypher on her retirement from the bench and wish her well on her upcoming role in academia.”