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Margaret Hilary Marshall

On October 13, 1999, Margaret Hilary Marshall became the first woman chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. Marshall was born in 1944 in Newcastle, Natal, South Africa. Her mother, Hilary A.D. Marshall, was born in Richmond, England. Her late father, Bernard Charles Marshall, was a native of Johannesburg, South Africa, and was a chemist and production manager at the African Metals Corporation. She is married to New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis and has three stepchildren.

In 1966, Marshall received a bachelor of arts degree from Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg. At Witwatersrand, Marshall majored in English and art history. From 1966 to 1968, she was president of the National Union of South African Students, leading her fellow classmates in protests against apartheid. The National Union of South African Students was the only multiracial national group in the country at the time.

Marshall immigrated to the United States in 1968 in order to pursue an education at the graduate level. She studied at Harvard University, where she was awarded a graduate scholarship by the Ernest Oppenheimer Trust. The following year, she received her master's degree in education from Harvard. After doing so, Marshall decided on a law career. She studied at Yale Law School from 1973 until 1975. Although she completed her last year of law school at Harvard, Yale awarded her a Juris Doctor degree in 1976.

Marshall began her career as a lawyer in private practice, working as both an associate and a member in the Boston law firm of Csaplar & Bok from 1976 through 1989. In 1978, she became naturalized as a U.S. citizen. She then continued the private PRACTICE OF LAW in Boston as a partner at the prominent law firm of Choate, Hall & Stewart from 1989 through 1992. During these years, Marshall's practice consisted primarily of civil litigation. She earned a reputation as an expert in the area of INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY, which includes patent, COPYRIGHT,

and TRADEMARK LAWS that protect inventions, designs, artistic and literary products, and commercial symbols.

While pursuing her career in private practice, Marshall continued in the fight against apartheid in her native county. She urged the United States to impose sanctions against South Africa due to its racial SEGREGATION. At that time, advocating sanctions against South Africa was a treasonable offense in her native country. Consequently, she was not able to return to South Africa because of her activities in the United States.

Marshall returned to Harvard University in 1992, where she served as general counsel and vice president until 1996. In that position, Marshall was responsible for Harvard's legal and regulatory affairs. Furthermore, she served as an active member of the President's Academic Council.

In November 1996, Marshall became an associate justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. She was only the second woman ever to serve as a justice on the highest Court in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is the oldest court in continuous service in the United States.

As a Supreme Judicial Court justice, Marshall is known for authoring opinions that strongly support CIVIL RIGHTS and liberties. For example, in one opinion, she supported the constitutional rights of SEX OFFENDERS by holding that they are entitled to a hearing before their names are entered on the sex-offender registry in Massachusetts. Marshall is also known for opposing CAPITAL PUNISHMENT.

On March 9, 1998, Marshall authored an opinion in the widely publicized case of Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Louise Woodward, 694 N.E.2d 659 (Mass. 1998). In that case, at the trial-court level, a jury found Woodward, an au pair from England, guilty of the murder of Matthew Eappen, an eight-month-old child under her care. However, the trial judge reduced the jury's verdict from murder to INVOLUNTARY MANSLAUGHTER and sentenced Woodward to time served. Both sides appealed, and the case ultimately went before the Supreme Judicial Court for disposition. In the 46-page decision, Marshall stated that the reduced conviction of MANSLAUGHTER, as well as the sentence imposed by the trial judge, were lawful. In making her ruling, Marshall explained that the trial

Margaret H. Marshall.

judge merely invoked the commonly used right to reduce a jury verdict and to sentence a defendant to time served.

After Marshall served as an associate justice on the Supreme Judicial Court for three years, the Governor of Massachusetts, Paul Cellucci, nominated her to be the court's first female chief justice and the first female to head one of the three branches of government in Massachusetts. On October 13, 1999, the Governor's Council approved Marshall's nomination. In December of the same year, Marshall was sworn in as chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court. As such, she is the first naturalized U.S. citizen to become a chief justice.

As Chief Justice, Marshall designates which judges write opinions on particular cases, acts as the liaison to the Massachusetts governor and legislature, and has wide ranging authority over the administration of the state's courts. In a keynote address delivered to the Massachusetts Bar Association on January 2, 2000, Marshall stated, "Because of my experiences in South Africa, I value profoundly the central place of law in American society … law in the true sense. An impartial judiciary. Equal justice under the law."

In January 2002, Marshall wrote the majority opinion in a unanimous decision that held that children who are conceived by ARTIFICIAL INSEMINATION after the death of their father have the same inheritance rights as other children. The ruling was believed to be the first on the controversial issue by any state supreme court.

Also in January 2002, Marshall addressed the Massachusetts Bar Association Conference, where she called for "a revolution in the administration of justice" stating that the court system needed to improve its management system as well as its staffing and budget controls. In March 2002, her discussion of the court system's problems were amplified in a 52-page report that was published by a blue-ribbon panel appointed by Marshall.


Teicher, Stacy A. 2000." A Subtle Revolution as Women Lead the Bench." Christian Science Monitor (January 5).

Lavoie, Denise. 2002. "Court Rules on Posthumous Conception." Associated Press (January 2)

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