Margaret Marshall to Retire From Highest Court in Massachusetts

(NECN: Ally Donnelly, Boston, Mass.) - Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Margaret Marshall is retiring.

Margaret Marshall spoke clearly when she said, "with deep regret, but also with deep conviction..."

Wanting to spend more time with her husband who has Parkinson's disease, trailblazing MA Supreme Judicial Court chief Justice announced her retirement. "I have been privileged indeed to live greatly in the law," she said.

66 year old Marshall, who grew up in South Africa and was a student activist against apartheid, was first appointed to the bench by then Governor Bill Weld in 1996. She became the storied court's first female chief justice in 1999. Said Justice Robert Cordy, "She has been a courageous and inspirational leader."

Marshall's legacy will no doubt always include her landmark and controversial ruling in 2003 making Massachusetts the first state to legalize gay marriage. Arline Issacson is with the Mass Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus and led lobbying efforts to legalize gay marriage. She said, "Not all justices get to change history, to make history and she will the hero in the eyes of the gay community."
She says Marshall's 4-3 decision was written simply and unambiguously --  that the state's constitution forbids the creation of second class citizens. "She really was reading that case the same way she reads everything else," Isaacson said. "What's the right thing to do in terms of what the law says, what the constitution says and what is my job as a justice."

Kris Mineau is with the Massachusetts Family Institute and is glad to see Marshall go. "We've been under Marshall Law for the past 5 years," he said. "She absolutely legislated from the bench. She's a classic example of an activist judge."

Reporters repeatedly asked Marshall what it was like to write that decision and she said though she's not naive, it was one among many over her career and insists she did not think she was making history. Said Marshall, "If you are a justice on a state court, one is so accustomed to making justice for the commonwealth of Massachusetts, that's what we were doing."

Marshall says she will leave her post by the end of October. No word on who will be named the next chief justice.

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