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Ireland has 'butterflies' as he prepares for confirmation hearing as SJC chief justice

Posted by Metro Desk  November 30, 2010 02:06 PM

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Pat Greenehouse / Globe Staff

Justice Roderick L. Ireland meets with reporters Nov. 4 after Gov. Deval Patrick formally nominated him to become the next chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court.

Justice Roderick Ireland said he has "butterflies'' as he prepares for the Governor's Council hearing on his nomination to become the next chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court.

“It’s an enormous moment,” Ireland said in a brief telephone interview today. “I’ve got butterflies, but I’m just hopeful that it will work out.”

Asked what questions he is anticipating from the council during Wednesday's hearing, he replied, “You never know.”

Governor Deval Patrick nominated Ireland, who has been a judge for the past 33 years, to succeed current Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall, who is stepping down to spend more time with her husband, former New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis.

Marshall is listed as among those who will be supporting Ireland's nomination before the council at the hearing.

Other supporters include retired SJC chief justice Herbert P. Wilkins; Appeals Court Judge Kent B. Smith; Ireland’s pastor, the Rev. Evan Hines of Eliot Congregational Church in Roxbury; and prominent Boston attorney Wayne Budd, a childhood friend of Ireland's from Springfield.

Also prepared to endorse Ireland is Jerry Howland, who has worked closely with the Ireland-backed Judicial Youth Corps. Ireland said he will urge judges, lawyers, and other court employees to spend more time working with at-risk youth in hopes of lowering the dropout rates among Massachusetts high school students.

Ireland said he has written 350 opinions in his 13 years on the SJC. And the justice, who turns 66 on Friday, also said his health is “excellent.”

Ireland, addressing potential conflicts of interests, said he had no business interests and that his investments primarily consist of retirement accounts and annuities. Ireland also said he had not made any political contributions in the last three years, although his wife gave $475 to Barack Obama's presidential campaign in 2008.

Ireland said in written answers to the Council that he does not consider himself to be an activist judge.

"The Legislature, not the judiciary, is responsible for enacting our laws,'' he wrote. "As a judge, I apply whatever laws the Legislature, in its wisdom, sees fit to enact.''

He also wrote that his life experiences and a life spent in the legal profession have properly prepared him to lead the third branch of government.

"I believe I have demonstrated that I am a capable and intelligent student of the law; that I have the temperament and balanced judgment to lead the highest court; that I have the life experience which reminds me every day that courts deal with real people who have real problems, and that these cases are not just academic exercises,'' he also wrote. He italicized the word ''real'' in his submission.

Councilor Christopher Iannella of Boston said today he expects Ireland will be confirmed to become the first African-American to lead the state's judicial system. "He's not going to have a problem,'' Iannella said. "I think he's a great pick myself.''

Originally published on the blog MetroDesk.

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