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Curry College's 2023 Commencement will take place at the Xfinity Center in Mansfield, MA on Sunday, May 21, 2023 at 9:30 a.m.
Chief Justice Roderick L. Ireland will serve as Commencement Speaker at Curry College’s 2023 Commencement. Ireland served as Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (2010-2014) and is Distinguished Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Northeastern University. This is Ireland’s second time as Curry College’s Commencement Speaker. The first time, in 1998, Ireland also received an Honorary Doctor in Laws.
Ireland began his legal career in 1969 as a Neighborhood Legal Services attorney. In 1971, he co-founded the Roxbury Defenders Committee, a public defender program that provided free legal services in criminal cases. In 1975, he was appointed the Assistant Secretary and Chief Legal Counsel for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Administration and Finance, and in 1977, the Chair of the Massachusetts Board of Appeals on Motor Vehicle Liability Policies and Bonds. He then served as a judge for 37 years, sitting in the Boston Juvenile Court from 1977 to 1990, the Massachusetts Appeals Court from 1990 to 1997, and the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court from 1997 to 2014. When he was appointed an associate justice of the Supreme Judicial Court in 1997, he became the first African American to sit on that bench in its over 300 history. In 2010, he became the Court’s first African American chief justice.
At Northeastern University, Ireland served as an adjunct faculty member in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice from 1978 to 2014. He also taught at Harvard Law School, Boston University Law School, Northeastern University School of Law, and the University of Massachusetts in Boston. In addition, he has been on the faculty of New York University Law School’s Appellate Judges Seminar since 2001. He is the author of a two-volume treatise on Massachusetts Juvenile Law published by Thomson/Reuters in its Massachusetts Practice Series, as well as several law review articles.
As one of the four justices who voted in favor of same-sex marriage in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, the nation’s very first case in which a state supreme court declared same-sex marriage constitutional, he has lectured and spoken on that topic a number of times, including giving the Sixteenth Annual Justice William J. Brennan Jr. Lecture on State Courts and Social Justice at New York University School of Law entitled, “In Goodridge’s Wake: Reflections on the Political, Public and Personal Repercussions of the Massachusetts Same-Sex Marriage Cases.”
Ireland’s interests include criminal law, juvenile law, and constitutional law. Of particular interest, given his experience as chief justice of the SJC, is studying both the theory and the reality of how government works, with a focus on the interplay of the judiciary with the legislative and executive branches, as well as with external entities such as the business community and the media. He is also very interested in diversifying the judiciary at all levels through increased training programs, as well as scholarship and fellowship opportunities for minorities, and is president of The Justice George Lewis Ruffin Society, sponsored by Northeastern University’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. The Ruffin Society is an organization that supports and uplifts minority professionals in the criminal justice system and the legal profession in general.
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