Bolch Judicial Institute welcomes retired Mass. Chief Justice Margaret Marshall

Jan 10, 2020Bolch Prize, Latest News

Margaret Marshall, the first woman to serve as chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, will be the Bolch Judicial Institute’s Distinguished Judge in Residence for spring 2020. She will visit Duke Law Jan. 20-22.

Before her retirement in 2010, Chief Justice Marshall wrote hundreds of opinions, including the groundbreaking 2003 decision in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, which held that the Massachusetts Constitution prohibits the state from denying same-sex couples access to civil marriage. The opinion made Massachusetts the first state to legalize gay marriage. Chief Justice Marshall’s tenure also was marked by her efforts to improve access to justice for all and to make the judiciary more transparent, efficient, and accountable.

“It is an honor to welcome Chief Justice Marshall to Duke Law and to recognize her wonderful career,” said David F. Levi, director of the Bolch Judicial Institute. “Chief Justice Marshall is one of our deepest thinkers on the rule of law. Through her work as a human rights advocate, her leadership on the bench, and her many roles in public service, Chief Justice Marshall has advanced the promise of justice for all. I know our students and faculty will enjoy this special opportunity to spend time with her.”

Chief Justice Marshall will join Professor Levi for a lunch program at Duke Law on Jan. 21, where they will discuss her career and observations on the state of the judiciary. As the Institute’s Distinguished Judge in Residence, she also will participate in select courses and events with faculty and students and enjoy time to work on her own writing projects. She will also join Levi as a guest on his new podcast, Judgment Calls.

Born and raised in South Africa, Chief Justice Marshall obtained her baccalaureate from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. While an undergraduate, she was elected president of the National Union of South African Students, at the time a leading anti-apartheid organization, beginning her life-long work as a human rights advocate. She came to the United States to pursue her graduate studies at Harvard and was unable to return to South Africa because of her activities opposing apartheid. She became a United States citizen in 1978 and obtained a master’s degree from Harvard and a JD from Yale Law School.

Following her graduation, Chief Justice Marshall practiced law for 16 years in Boston and became a partner in the Boston firm of Choate, Hall & Stewart; she returned to the firm in 2012 as senior counsel. In 1992, she was appointed vice president and general counsel of Harvard University, the first woman to hold that position. She was named an associate justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts in 1996, and in 1999 she became the first woman to serve as chief justice of that court.

Chief Justice Marshall has served as president of the United States Conference of Chief Justices and chair of the board of the National Center for State Courts. She is a fellow of the American Philosophical Society, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and an emeritus member of the council and executive committee of the American Law Institute. She also has served as a member of the Committee on Science, Technology and Law of the National Academies and as a board member and chair of the Friends of LRC (Legal Resources Centre in South Africa). She has served as a member of the Board of Trustees of Yale University, where she was the first woman to hold the position of senior trustee.

Chief Justice Marshall has received multiple awards for her judicial service, including the American Bar Association’s Thurgood Marshall Award (in 2014) and the American Constitution Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award (in 2018). She also is the recipient of many honorary degrees, including one from her undergraduate alma mater, the University of the Witwatersrand, and one from Yale University.