We would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the passing in September of two champions of equality and justice.
Chief Justice Ralph Gants was the Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. In that role he not only presided over the highest appellate court in the state which decides criminal and civil matters appealed from other state courts, but was also the chief administrative justice of the Massachusetts court system. It was in that role that he touched every attorney in Massachusetts, inspiring us to do good work, while also truly caring about the well-being of all Massachusetts attorneys who labor in a profession with increasingly high levels of stress and related challenges. Most recently, Justice Gants led the Courts through the unprecedented COVID shutdown, when physical access to the Courts was limited, with equal concern for the public seeking access to the Courts for everything from adoptions to criminal trials, the attorneys and Court personnel. Just prior to his death researchers at Harvard Law School released a report commissioned by Justice Gants looking at racial disparities in the criminal justice system, with an eye towards working to ensure equal justice for all.
Justice Gants’ respect and compassion for his fellow attorneys was apparent in many ways – in how he addressed attorneys from the bench, in how he encouraged us to carry on in his messages during the COVID pandemic, and in how, on a snowy morning years ago, he left his chambers to venture into the hallway of the courthouse after hearing that an attorney had slipped and fallen on the ice outside, to check on her and make sure she was comfortable proceeding with her appearance before the Court. He will be truly missed.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg needs no introduction, and has been a prominent figure in our national legal landscape for decades. Her personal struggles against discrimination as a woman and a mother are well-known, and although those experiences happened only decades ago, are gratefully hard to imagine today. That being said, the legal profession and many others are by no means completely free of the discrimination and inequality that Justice Ginsburg faced. It was her work to ensure that future generations did not have to face the obstacles she did to which we here at Samuel, Sayward & Baler, a firm of mostly women attorneys and many mothers, owe our careers, and we are eternally grateful. As Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt said when eulogizing Justice Ginsburg in the memorial service at the United States Supreme Court:
“To be born into a world that does not see you, that does not believe in your potential, that does not give you a path for opportunity or a clear path for education — and despite this, to be able to see beyond the world you are in, to imagine that something can be different: that is the job of a prophet. And it is the rare prophet who not only imagines a new world, but also makes that new world a reality in her lifetime.”
For more about Justice Ginsberg, we recommend the eloquent tributes to Justice Ginsburg written by the remaining justices of the Supreme Court.
We will forever be inspired by these two great lawyers and justices.