Massachusetts’ Highest Court Gets A Little Less West

Massachusetts’ highest court now has one fewer voice from the western and central parts of the state.

A week ago, the Supreme Judicial Court lost Springfield native Roderick Ireland, who stepped down as he approached the mandatory retirement age of 70. Out of seven justices, that leaves Francis Spina as the only one from this half of the state. He was born and still lives in Pittsfield.

Justice John Greaney of Westfield retired in 2008. He says some regional variety can come in handy.

“There were some small towns that some of my colleagues might not have heard of — such as Orange, and Peru, Tolland and places like that,” Greaney says.

But in actually deliberating on cases, Greaney says home regions matter little, especially in a state as compact as Massachusetts.

“In no matter what direction you go, wherever you are, within 20, 30, 40 miles, you’ll be venturing into farm areas,  suburbs and so on — and that’s true even with the density of Cambridge and Boston,” he says.

Greaney says the importance of diversity based on things like gender, race or sexual orientation far outweigh regional diversity.