Academic journal article Albany Law Review

Chief Justice Margaret Marshall: A Lifetime Devoted to Defending Liberty and Justice for All

Academic journal article Albany Law Review

Chief Justice Margaret Marshall: A Lifetime Devoted to Defending Liberty and Justice for All

Article excerpt

"The Massachusetts Constitution affirms the dignity and equality of all individuals. It forbids the creation of second-class citizens.... [I]t may demand broader protection for fundamental rights; and it is less tolerant of government intrusion into the protected spheres of private life." (1)


Chief Justice Margaret Marshall, the first female chief justice of the oldest continuously-functioning appellate court in the Western Hemisphere, is an iconic figure. (2) From her political activism against apartheid in her native South Africa as a young adult, to her most recent accomplishments as the Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, Chief Justice Marshall has earned a reputation as of one of the nation's most eminent jurists. (3)

This paper will examine Chief Justice Marshall's voting trends during her tenure as Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (October 1999 to November 2010). In Part II, the Chief Justice's upbringing and career path will be discussed. (4) Part III will provide a brief overview of the ideological composition of the Court. (5) Then, in Part IV, Chief Justice Marshall's voting patterns will be studied in three important ways. (6) First, divided cases will be analyzed to reveal any patterns that emerge. (7) Additionally, these decisions will be reviewed to determine when, and regarding what matters, Chief Justice Marshall joined an associate justice's dissent. Second, cases authored by Chief Justice Marshall will be reviewed. (8) Here, split decisions will be scrutinized more closely, especially those of a controversial nature. (9) Third, dissents authored by Chief Justice Marshall will be evaluated, and data will be examined to illustrate the number of times these opinions were joined by associate justices on the bench. (10) The methodology for each portion will be explained in the footnotes. An emphasis will be placed on cases that most accurately depict areas where the Chief Justice has a particular interest, instead of those where the Court reached a unanimous decision. Finally, Part V will present the findings of the voting analysis, as well as potential explanations for the results reached. (11)


Before examining Chief Justice Marshall's voting patterns, it is important to understand her background and career path. Marshall was born in Newcastle, South Africa in 1944. (12) Her mother, Hilary A.D. Marshall, was born in Richmond, England, and her father, Bernard Charles Marshall, was native to Johannesburg, South Africa. (13) Mr. Marshall was a chemist as well as a production manager at African Metals Corporation. (14)

In 1948, shortly after Chief Justice Marshall's birth, the Nationalist Government in South Africa came to power and enacted laws that enforced segregation throughout society. (15) Known as apartheid laws, this legislation had the power of institutionalizing discrimination. (16) Some of these laws included the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act of 1949, which prohibited marriage between people of different races, and the Immorality Act of 1950, which forbade all sexual relations between whites and non-whites. The political landscape of South Africa during this time played a vital role in the development of Marshall's principles and beliefs.

Chief Justice Marshall attended the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa where she majored in English and art history. (17) From 1966 to 1968, she was her school's president of the National Union of South African Students, and led her fellow classmates in protests against apartheid. (18) At the time, the National Union of South African Students was the only multiracial national group in the entire country. (19)

In 1968, Chief Justice Marshall immigrated to the United States in order to pursue a graduate education. (20) She studied at Harvard University, where she was awarded a graduate scholarship by the Ernest Oppenheimer Trust, and received her master's degree in education. …

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