Massachusetts Appeals Court Senior Associate Justice Elspeth “Ellie” B. Cypher, a 1986 graduate of Suffolk University Law School, has been nominated for a seat on the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts by Gov. Charlie Baker.
“Justice Cypher will bring nearly three decades of broad civil and criminal, trial, and appellate experience, including the last sixteen years on the Appeals Court, to the Supreme Judicial Court,” said Baker during a Feb. 8 press conference.
“She is fair, experienced and wise and would be an admirable addition to the Supreme Judicial Court," said Appeals Court Chief Justice Scott Kafker.
The nomination will now go to the Governor’s Council, and, if confirmed, Cypher would be the second Suffolk Law graduate to join the SJC this year. Associate Justice Frank M. Gaziano, a 1989 Suffolk Law alumnus, was named to the court in August.
Six other Suffolk Law alumni sit on state supreme courts in New England, with the chief justices of the Rhode Island, Vermont, and New Hampshire supreme courts holding Suffolk Law degrees. The school’s alumni serve on all New England high courts, with the exception of Maine's.
Cypher has a long history of service to the Commonwealth, including 12 years with the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office, first as an assistant district attorney (1988-1993), and later as chief of appeals (1993-2000).
Continuing ties to Suffolk Law
“We’re incredibly proud of Judge Cypher’s accomplishments and distinguished career in public service. We also are grateful for all that she does for Suffolk Law. Judge Cypher regularly mentors our students and recent graduates, offering them her wisdom and practical advice,” said Suffolk Law Dean Andrew Perlman.
Richard Pline, JD ’89, served as Cypher’s career law clerk, and her current clerk is Daniel Goodrich, JD ’15. Goodrich first served as an intern for Cypher through Suffolk Law’s First Year Summer Internship Program. Through that summer program, more than 100 first-year Suffolk Law students work alongside judges in courthouses across New England. Cypher has worked with Suffolk Law interns since 2007.
From 1994 to 2006, Justice Cypher also served as a senior adjunct professor of law at the University of Massachusetts School of Law. Before her stint in public service, Cypher represented clients in employment law, personal injury, consumer protection, and criminal matters for Grayer, Brown and Dilday, a small general-practice law firm in Boston.
In 2016, Cypher wrote the majority decision for the court in a high-profile case brought by Harvard students and graduates who were part of the Harvard Climate Justice Coalition. The group sought to force Harvard University to divest its holdings in oil, coal, and gas companies because of their impact on global warming. Cypher and the rest of the court held that the group had no legal standing to force the Harvard Corporation to accede to its viewpoint. Cypher wrote that the plaintiffs "fail to show that they have been accorded a personal right in the management or administration of Harvard's endowment that is individual to them or distinct from the student body or public at large.”
Cypher earned a Bachelor of Arts from Emerson College in 1980. At Suffolk Law she was a literary editor of the Law Review.
If confirmed by the Governor’s Council, Cypher will replace retiring Justice Margo Botsford.