MLK Convocation

State SJC chief justice named Distinguished Professor

Rod­erick L. Ireland, PhD’98, has been appointed Dis­tinguished Professor of Crim­inology and Criminal Justice
June 24th, 2014

Mass­a­chu­setts Supreme Judi­cial Court Chief Jus­tice Roderick L. Ireland, PhD’98, has been appointed Distinguished Pro­fessor of Crim­i­nology and Crim­inal Jus­tice in the College of Social Sciences and Humanities at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity. He will join the fac­ulty full time effec­tive Aug. 27, 2014.

Ire­land, who is retiring from the bench in July, was the first African-​​American on the state’s Supreme Judi­cial Court and is widely rec­og­nized for his work on mat­ters of social jus­tice and court reform. He has served as a part-​​time instructor at North­eastern since 1978, teaching under­grad­uate and grad­uate courses in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, the School of Law, and in the Law, Policy, and Society program.

During his tenure as a member of the state’s judi­ciary, Ire­land led efforts on a number of note­worthy legal decisions, worked to improve the state’s court system, and pushed for diver­si­fying the judi­ciary and reforming the state’s pro­ba­tion depart­ment. Notably, he ruled it uncon­sti­tu­tional for teenagers facing life sen­tences to not have the pos­si­bility of parole, which changed the way juve­nile cases are han­dled statewide. Ire­land also oversaw the court’s ruling that law enforce­ment gath­ering indi­vid­uals’ cell­phone records to track their move­ment was unconstitutional.

In his new full-​​time role at North­eastern, Ire­land will leverage his deep knowl­edge and expe­ri­ence at the intersection of law, pol­i­tics, and gov­er­nance. In Spring 2015 he will lead a new course called “The Third Branch of Gov­ern­ment,” which will examine the inter­play of the judi­ciary with the leg­isla­tive and exec­u­tive branches as well as with external enti­ties like busi­ness and the media.

“Chief Jus­tice Ire­land has helped shape some of the key legal trans­for­ma­tions of our time,” said Uta Poiger, dean of the Col­lege of Social Sci­ences and Humanities.

“Stu­dents and col­leagues at North­eastern will greatly ben­efit from his immense expe­ri­ence on the bench and as chief admin­is­trator of the state’s court system, as well as his con­tri­bu­tions to legal schol­ar­ship. It is an honor to wel­come him to his new role.”

Ire­land will also expand his long­time efforts to diver­sify the judi­ciary at all levels through increased training programs and schol­ar­ship and fel­low­ship oppor­tu­ni­ties for minori­ties. He will strengthen Northeastern’s 25-​​year partnership with the Jus­tice George Lewis Ruffin Society, an orga­ni­za­tion founded in 1984 to sup­port minority professionals in the Mass­a­chu­setts crim­inal jus­tice system. Ire­land will also work with Northeastern’s Insti­tute on Race and Jus­tice, which is led by Col­lege of Social Sci­ences and Human­i­ties Asso­ciate Dean Jack McDevitt.

“After teaching at North­eastern for 36 years, I look for­ward to working with stu­dents and fac­ulty in my new, full-time role,” Ire­land said. “I am espe­cially excited about sharing my first-​​hand accounts and insights into how government oper­ates and responds to out­side forces.”

Ire­land has received numerous awards, recog­ni­tions, and hon­orary degrees throughout his career, including most recently the Boston Bar Association’s 2014 Cita­tion of Judi­cial Excel­lence. He has authored the Juve­nile Law volume of Thomson/​West Publishing’s Massachusetts Prac­tice Series as well as sev­eral law review arti­cles and arti­cles, and has been on the fac­ulty of the Appel­late Judges Sem­inar at New York Uni­ver­sity Law School since 2001. In November 2010 Ire­land pub­lished “In Goodridge’s Wake: Reflec­tions on the Polit­ical, Public, and Personal Reper­cus­sions of the Massachusetts Same-​​Sex Mar­riage Cases,” in New York Uni­ver­sity Law Review.

This past November, Ire­land shared his expe­ri­ences as a jus­tice during the 2003 Goodridge v. Depart­ment of Public Health case with the North­eastern com­mu­nity as a fea­tured pan­elist at an event titled “Gay Rights after Gay Marriage.” The event marked the sixth install­ment in the university’s educational series on civic sustainability, Conflict. Civility. Respect. Peace. Northeastern Reflects.

Ire­land has been a jurist for 37 years. The Spring­field, Mass­a­chu­setts native began his legal career in 1969 as a Neigh­bor­hood Legal Ser­vices attorney and then worked as a public defender from 1971 to 1973 with the Rox­bury Defenders Com­mittee, even­tu­ally becoming exec­u­tive director. From 1975 to 1977, he served as assis­tant secretary in the Mass­a­chu­setts Exec­u­tive Office of Admin­is­tra­tion and Finance.

In 1977, Gov. Michael Dukakis—now a Dis­tin­guished Uni­ver­sity Pro­fessor at Northeastern—appointed Ire­land as judge of the state’s Juve­nile Court, where he served for 13 years. In 1990, he was appointed as an asso­ciate justice of the Mass­a­chu­setts Appeals Court. Ire­land was first appointed as an asso­ciate justice of the Supreme Judicial Court in 1997 by Gov. William F. Weld and became the senior asso­ciate justice in 2008. In 2010, Gov. Deval Patrick appointed him as the state’s first African-​​American chief justice.

Ire­land earned his bach­elor of arts from Lin­coln Uni­ver­sity; juris doctor from Columbia Law School; master of laws from Har­vard Law School; and doctorate in law, policy, and society from North­eastern. He has served as a member of the North­eastern Uni­ver­sity Cor­po­ra­tion since 1999. His wife, Alice Alexander, J.D.’79, served as assis­tant dean and director for coop­er­a­tive edu­ca­tion at the North­eastern School of Law from 1985 to 2005.

- By Northeastern News


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