Former Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court, Margaret H. Marshall is Senior Counsel at Choate, Hall & Stewart LLP. Appointed Chief Justice in 1999 by Governor A. Paul Cellucci, she was the first woman to serve as Chief Justice of the Court in its then 307-year history. She was first appointed to the Court as an Associate Justice in 1996, the second woman to serve on the Court.
Chief Justice Marshall was born and raised in South Africa, obtaining her baccalaureate from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg in 1966. While an undergraduate, she was elected President of the National Union of South African Students, at the time a leading anti-apartheid organization. She came to the United States in 1968 to pursue graduate studies at Harvard, and has lived in the Boston area since that time. She received a master's degree from Harvard in 1969 and a J.D. from Yale Law School in 1973. She became a United States citizen in 1978.
Following her graduation from Yale Law School, Chief Justice Marshall practiced law in Boston and became a partner in the Boston law firm of Choate, Hall & Stewart. She served as President of the Boston Bar Association from 1991-1992. In 1992, she was appointed Vice President and General Counsel of Harvard University, the first woman to hold that position.
During her fourteen years on the Supreme Judicial Court, Chief Justice Marshall wrote more than three hundred opinions, many of them groundbreaking, including the 2003 decision, 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. Her tenure as Chief Justice was marked by her many efforts to improve the administration of justice, making the Massachusetts judiciary more transparent, efficient and accountable, as well as to improving access to justice throughout the court system.
Chief Justice Marshall has been involved in numerous professional and community activities. She was elected to serve as President of the United States Conference of Chief Justices, and served as Chair of the Board of the National Center for State Courts. Chief Justice Marshall is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a member of the Council of the American Law Institute. From 2004 to 2010 she served as a Fellow of the Corporation of Yale University, the governing board and policy-making body for the University. She was reappointed to serve a second term in September 2012 and appointed Senior Fellow in 2013, the first woman to hold that position in Yale’s history. She is the recipient of many honorary degrees, including one from her undergraduate alma mater, the University of the Witwatersrand (2000), and one from her law school alma mater, Yale University (2012), and other professional awards. Presently she is a Senior Research Fellow and Lecturer at Harvard Law School.