Governor Deval Patrick will announce this morning that he is nominating Justice Roderick Ireland to be chief justice of the state Supreme Judicial Court, according to a source briefed on the nomination.
Ireland would be the first African-American chief justice of the state's highest court. A Springfield native, the 64-year-old Ireland had already broken new ground as the first black justice to serve on the court when he was appointed in 1997.
Chief Justice Margaret Marshall announced her retirement from the state's highest court earlier this year, saying she wanted to spend more time with her husband, Anthony Lewis. The former New York Times columnist has been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.
By elevating Ireland to the chief justice post, Patrick still has the opportunity to appoint a new, seventh justice. It was unclear whether he would announce the name of that nominee at a 10 a.m. news conference this morning.
Patrick's choice must be approved by the Governor's Council, which now has two Republican members in the wake of Tuesday's election.
Ireland, who was nominated originally to the court by former Republican Governor William F. Weld, is the most senior member on the bench of the oldest appellate court in the Western Hemisphere.
Ireland earned an undergraduate degree from Lincoln University, his law degree from Columbia University Law School, and a master's in law from the Harvard Law School. He has since earned a doctorate in law, police, and society from Northeastern University, according to his biography posted on the SJC website.
Ireland began his legal career as a public defender in Roxbury and then held a number of legal posts in the state government throughout the 1970s and 1980s. In 1990, he was named to the state Appeals Court and then elevated by Weld to the SJC seven years later.