The Governor's Council voted unanimously today to confirm Supreme Judicial Court Justice Roderick Ireland's nomination as chief justice of the state's highest court.But even as they made history by confirming the first black chief justice, several members of the council said Ireland faced difficult tasks ahead -- and they were counting on him to address problems in the judiciary, including the Probation Department, which has been embroiled in a scandal over hiring and promotion practices.
"I advised Judge Ireland I am not looking for a perfect person to be chief justice. I am looking for honesty, openness, and fairness, and, most importantly, strong leadership. People have lost faith in the system and rightfully so, especially with the recent revelations," said Councilor Marilyn Pettito Devaney.
"I stated to him, 'Don't let me down.' I am holding him to that pledge. Today I will be placing my trust in Judge Ireland to meet this awesome responsibility," she said.
The council voted 7-0, taking less than 10 minutes, in the council room at the State House to confirm the appointment of Ireland, a veteran who has been on the state's highest court since 1997. Ireland was not present for the hearing, which was attended mainly by the media and members of Governor Deval Patrick's staff. Ireland and Patrick are expected to speak to the media later this afternoon.
Ireland succeeds Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall, who announced her retirement in July, saying she wanted to spend more time with her husband, who has Parkinson's disease.
The vote came six days after a confirmation hearing at which Ireland, 65, discussed matters ranging from management of the judiciary to his thinking on landmark cases.
The seven-hour-long hearing included testimony from both supporters and critics of Ireland.
Ireland has been a judge for 33 years. He began in the Boston Juvenile Court, then served on the state Appeals Court before ascending to the Supreme Judicial Court, where he was the first black justice.
In his time on the bench, Ireland has proven himself a thoughtful and self-effacing jurist who listens intently and seldom parades his own knowledge, friends and lawyers who have appeared before him told the Globe. He strives to make sure the rights of individuals are protected and carefully considers the impact his rulings will have on ordinary people.
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