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Brittany, Tascha, and Alec Zadecks of Leominster, who are triplets, basked at their commencement yesterday at Brandeis University in Waltham, where Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall of the Supreme Judicial Court addressed the crowd of 7,000.
Brittany, Tascha, and Alec Zadecks of Leominster, who are triplets, basked at their commencement yesterday at Brandeis University in Waltham, where Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall of the Supreme Judicial Court addressed the crowd of 7,000. (Globe Staff Photos / John Bohn)

SJC chief decries 'attacks' on judges

Page 2 of 2 -- Marshall did not name Robertson in her speech, but quoted his statement that judges ''destroying the fabric that holds the nation together" are a threat ''probably more serious than a few bearded terrorists who fly into buildings."

''Judge Lefkow called on members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to 'publicly and persistently repudiate gratuitous attacks on the judiciary,' " Marshall told graduates and their families in her keynote address. ''I would urge you to do the same."

 RELATED STORY: Commencements

The speech was warmly received by an enthusiastic crowd at Brandeis, where student speakers and the university president, Jehuda Reinharz, stressed the importance of social activism. Marshall began with a joke about the blue and white balloons suspended from the Gosman Sports Center ceiling. She said she liked the colors, which included ''no red states" -- winning a big laugh.

A spokesman for Romney declined to comment yesterday on Marshall's speech.

But some analysts accused Marshall of ''muddying the waters" with her suggestion that critics want polls to drive judicial decisions. Judicial activism ''doesn't have anything to do with whether their opinions are popular or unpopular," said Brian Camenker, director of Article 8 Alliance, a Waltham group founded to remove Marshall and the other three justices who ruled for same-sex marriage from the bench.

'' 'Activist judges' is a specific term that refers to judges who rule outside the rule of law," he said. ''It has to do with whether they use objective, legal, constitutional means to base their decisions."

Some legal scholars believe courts must base their decisions strictly on specific language found in the constitution. Others say such an approach is impossible, because most constitutions did not anticipate current legal questions.

Some critics have said the same-sex marriage ruling in Massachusetts had no basis in the state's constitution. But one reason cited by the court for its decision was the state constitution's equal rights amendment, which says all people are born equal and have certain unalienable rights.

Marshall, who was awarded a doctor of laws degree at the commencement, came to the United States in the 1970s, attended Yale Law School, and later served as Harvard's general counsel. She was appointed to the Supreme Judicial Court in 1996 and became chief justice in 1999, the first woman to hold the position in the court's 313-year history.

Yesterday, Marshall asked graduates to undertake ''small acts" to promote understanding of the value of judicial independence.

''Each new generation must decide, each of you must decide, whether to embrace, to protect the rule of law, or to repudiate it," she said. ''And make no mistake, inaction and indifference are acts of repudiation."

Globe staff reporter David Abel contributed to this report. Jenna Russell can be reached at jrussell@globe.com.  

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Margaret H. Marshall spoke at Brandeis.
Margaret H. Marshall spoke at Brandeis.
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