On 10th anniversary, Chief Justice Marshall recognized with Hennessey Award

Issue November 2009 By Bill Archambeault

On her tenth anniversary leading the Supreme Judicial Court, Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall received the Massachusetts Bar Association's Chief Justice Edward F. Hennessey Award.

Marshall was recognized with the award at the Fourth Annual Bench-Bar Symposium, which was held Oct. 21 at the John Adams Courthouse in Boston. The honor has been bestowed only five times, including when it was originally given to SJC Chief Justice Hennessey in 1988.

Former Gov. William Weld appointed Marshall to the SJC in 1996, and in 1999, she was appointed chief justice by former Gov. A. Paul Cellucci and began her term on Oct. 14, 1999.

Cellucci, now special counsel to McCarter & English LLP in Boston, told the audience he based his decision on intellect, courage and leadership.

"I had the great honor of elevating Margaret Marshall to be chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court," he said. "The head of our state's judicial branch has to be an exceptional person."

Cellucci noted that the Hennessey Award reflects Marshall's exceptional life.

"It is quite an honor for me to be here," he said.

Marshall, the first woman to serve as chief justice and just the second to serve as an associate justice, was born and raised in South Africa. As an undergraduate student, she was elected president of the National Union of South African Students, a leading anti-apartheid organization. After receiving her bachelor's degree in 1966, she came to the United States in 1968, where she earned a master's degree in education from Harvard and a law degree from Yale University.

She practiced law for 16 years in Boston, and was a partner at Choate, Hall & Stewart LLP, where she specialized in intellectual property litigation. In 1992, she was appointed vice president and general counsel of Harvard University, the first woman to hold that position.

Utah Supreme Court Chief Justice Christine M. Durham, who succeeded Marshall as president of the Conference of Chief Justices, also applauded Marshall.

While the Massachusetts legal community may be aware of Marshall's "extraordinary" leadership within the state, Durham assured the audience of Marshall's reputation nationally.

"She is alive to the promise of the American justice system," Durham said, " … and she is alive to defending and preserving it."

In presenting the award, MBA President Valerie A. Yarashus said, "She has surpassed all of our highest expectations," noting in particular Marshall's commitment to access to justice.

Marshall thanked Cellucci and the Massachusetts legal community.

"What an extraordinary and remarkable legal journey this has been for me in this legal community," she said. "It is rich and welcoming."