News Releases
September 14, 2020

Boston Bar Association Statement on the Passing of Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants

Letter or Statement

The Boston Bar Association is deeply saddened by today’s news of Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants’ untimely passing. He was a truly extraordinary Chief Justice—a visionary leader who was relentless in the pursuit of making the Massachusetts court system a place where access to justice was available to everyone.

Chief Justice Ralph Gants embodied the best qualities of a judge: compassion, humility, intellectual rigor and curiosity, commitment to the rule of law, a way with words, and dedication to equal justice for all. In his six-year tenure, Chief Justice Gants left an indelible mark on our justice system. 

From the outset, he focused on the role that the courts could play in addressing some of the Commonwealth’s most pressing problems. Working with legislative leaders and the Governor, Chief Justice Gants brought the Council of State Governments to Massachusetts, laying the groundwork for the most far-reaching criminal justice reform in decades.

The Commonwealth had no greater advocate than Chief Justice Gants for legal services—in large part because his bottomless empathy led him to strive always to view the court system through the eyes of the most vulnerable. In two recent rulings, he used the case before him as an opportunity to provide a plain-English roadmap for pro se parties through the thickets and minefields surrounding the law on evictions and property-tax debt.

And he had the rare courage to seek the truth—regardless of the results—about the institution he led, commissioning the recent Harvard Law School report examining racial disparities in the Massachusetts criminal justice system. He foresaw that its findings would be troubling, but he recognized that they would also be necessary, if we are to make progress toward fairer outcomes for all residents.

Let us make it our task now to carry on his work on these fronts and thereby honor his profound legacy.

He will be missed beyond measure. We join the entire Massachusetts legal community in extending our deepest condolences to his family, his friends, and his colleagues on the Supreme Judicial Court and throughout our judiciary.