Chief Justice Margaret Marshall Receives AmLaw's Lifetime Achievement Award

Choate Press Release

 | October 1, 2012

 | Margaret Marshall

Choate today announced that Margaret Marshall, Senior Counsel at the firm and former Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, has received a 2012 Lifetime Achiever Award from The American Lawyer for “extraordinary professional success and true dedication to public service.”  Marshall is one of eight members of the legal profession named to the class of 2012 Lifetime Achievers, all of whom will be honored at The American Lawyer Awards in New York City on October 24, 2012.

According to The American Lawyer, Marshall, who was the first female Chief Justice of the MA Supreme Judicial Court and the first female general counsel of Harvard University, has “spent her career working to ensure that courthouse doors are open to all.” 

“No one is more deserving of this Lifetime Achiever Award than Margaret Marshall.  She is truly a remarkable person and lawyer who has made historically significant contributions to Massachusetts and the entire legal profession,” said John Nadas and William Gelnaw, co-managing partners at Choate.  “She feels very strongly about the importance of allowing people to have access to justice and representation.  We are very proud of the work she has done throughout her career and is now doing here at Choate.”

During Marshall’s 14 years on the MA Supreme Judicial Court – including 11 years as Chief Justice – Marshall wrote more than 300 opinions.  She is best known for the 2003 decision in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, which declared that the Massachusetts Constitution prohibits the state from denying same-sex couples access to civil marriage.  The ruling made Massachusetts the first state to legalize gay marriage.  In her opinion, Marshall took a strong stance against all forms of discrimination, stating that the “Massachusetts Constitution affirms the dignity and equality of all individuals.  It forbids the creation of second-class citizens.”

Marshall rejoined Choate as Senior Counsel after retiring from the Court in December 2010.  At Choate, she focuses her efforts on the firm’s extensive community outreach, pro bono and diversity programs, mentoring junior lawyers and providing senior level counsel to clients on special projects.  One of Marshall’s most important community projects is her work with Greater Boston Legal Services, where she is helping raise money for the Marshall Plan (named in her honor) which was created to help ensure that as many poor people as possible have access to legal assistance.  Over $2.4 million has been pledged so far to the Marshall Plan, enough to preserve 11 advocacy positions and provide legal services that will benefit 8,800 people who would otherwise not be served.

Following her graduation from Yale Law School, Marshall practiced law for 16 years in Boston and was a partner at Choate.  In 1992, she became Vice President and General Counsel of Harvard University.  In 1996, she was appointed as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court and was named Chief Justice in September 1999. 

Marshall served as president of the Boston Bar Association from 1991 to 1992, president of the United States Conference of Chief Justices from 2008 to 2009, and chair of the Board of the National Center for State Courts.  Marshall is a member of the Council of the American Law Institute, and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  She served as a fellow of the Yale Corporation from 2004 to 2010.  Marshall currently serves as a trustee to the Yale Corporation.  She has received many honorary degrees and other professional awards. 

Born and raised in South Africa, Marshall received her undergraduate degree in 1966 from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.  She spent three years as president of the National Union of South African Students, a leading anti-apartheid organization.  She moved to Boston in 1966 to attend Harvard University, where she received her master’s degree in education in 1969.  Marshall received her JD from Yale Law School in 1976.


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