Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall
announced her intention to resign by the end of October 2010,
citing her husband's diagnosis with Parkinson's disease as the
reason for her early retirement.
Marshall's announcement comes as the Massachusetts judicial
system continues to grapple with devastating budget reductions. She
said that her decision to resign was made in spite of budget cuts,
emphasizing that "because of the budget shortcuts, it will be
difficult for the system to live up to delivering justice."
Marshall has spoken out forcefully against budget cuts to the
justice system, citing a report developed since 2002 on resources
necessary for the courts to function in Massachusetts. Though she
commended the courts' employees for upholding justice, she stressed
that this could only work for a very short period of time, saying,
"It is very possible to run a sprint if you don't have to run a
The South African-born Harvard alumna was appointed to the
Supreme Judicial Court by former Gov. William F. Weld in 1996. She
pointed to the lack of justice in her childhood country as one of
the foremost reasons why she respects the freedoms and justice
accorded by the Massachusetts Constitution. Marshall saw her role
on the SJC as extremely important to protecting those rights for
citizens of Massachusetts.
"To one who loves the law as I do, there is no greater joy than
shaping the law," she said. "My presence on this court is a great
Throughout her tenure on the Court, Marshall has overseen some
controversial cases. The most famous is arguably Goodridge v.
Department of Public Health, in which the SJC approved same-sex
marriage in Massachusetts in 2003.
When asked about Goodridge, however, Marshall responded, "For
me, every case has that importance. It's difficult to know which
decisions will have great impact."
While on the SJC, Marshall has authored over 300 decisions.
Though Goodridge will inevitably stand out for many, she mentioned
three cases that she considered most important, based on how often
other courts considered her decision.
- Haglund v. Philip Morris, Inc., where the SJC ruled that a
cigarette manufacturer could not defend against lung cancer cases
by asserting "unreasonable use" of the cigarette;
- Renzi v. Paredes, where the SJC ruled that a patient could sue
for a lost chance of survival due to a misdiagnosis; and
- Salvas v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., where the SJC ordered
certification of a class action suit over lost wages and employees'
Marshall stressed that she valued her time on the court and
thanked both Gov. Deval Patrick and Senate President Therese Murray
for their help, as well as the associate justices of the SJC. "I
feel very privileged to serve the commonwealth," she said, "but I
take great comfort knowing that with you the court rests in