The Honorable Chief Justice Roderick L. Ireland Leadership and Juvenile Advocacy Award was established to support the development of students who, like Chief Justice Ireland, have exhibited a commitment to outstanding leadership and a passion for juvenile advocacy.

Chief Justice Ireland is a native of Springfield, Massachusetts. He came from a very small family. He graduated from Lincoln University with a Bachelor’s Degree in 1966, and from Columbia Law School with a Juris Doctor in 1969. In 1975, he received an L.L.M. from Harvard Law School. He also obtained his Ph.D. in 1998 from Northeastern University’s Law, Policy and Society Program. Chief Justice Ireland began his legal career in 1969 at Neighborhood Legal Services, and then served as a public defender with the Roxbury Defenders Committee from 1971 to 1973. In that role, Chief Justice Ireland served as Chief Attorney, Deputy Director, and Executive Director. Chief Justice Ireland also served as Assistant Secretary and Chief Legal Counsel for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Administration and Finance from 1975 to 1977, and Chair of the Massachusetts Board of Appeals on Motor Vehicle Liability Policies and Bonds.

Chief Justice Ireland has over 30 years of experience serving on the judiciary. He served on the Boston Juvenile Court with distinction from 1977 to 1997, and was appointed by Governor Michael Dukakis to serve on the Massachusetts Court of Appeals. Chief Justice Ireland served on the Court of Appeals from 1990 to 1999, and was then appointed to serve as an Associate Justice of the SJC by Governor William Weld in 1997, becoming the first African American justice to serve on that Court. Chief Justice Ireland was nominated to serve as Chief Justice of the SJC by Governor Deval L. Patrick on November 4, 2010, and was sworn in on December 20, 2010, becoming the first African-American Chief Justice of that Court.

As the first African American Chief Justice of the SJC and the first African American justice to serve on the SJC, Chief Justice Ireland has expanded the opportunities available for attorneys of color. In addition, his contributions and dedication to issues impacting our youth is unparalleled. For over 13 years while serving on the Juvenile Court, he devoted his time to families and juveniles, ensuring that the best interests of children and strong family ties were preserved. Additionally, even after leaving the Juvenile Court, Chief Justice Ireland maintained his commitment to the youth and has been a dedicated advocate for the adoption of children in Massachusetts. Chief Justice Ireland has also been a major advocate of Discovering Justice, a program dedicated to educating and exposing youth to the legal system and legal issues.

In his honor, this Award is aimed at law school students of color who have demonstrated a commitment to juvenile advocacy in a variety of ways and who have demonstrated leadership abilities. Nominees should exhibit high academic achievement, and should possess the very qualities that make Chief Justice Ireland such an asset to the legal profession: intellect, leadership, compassion, and dedication to juvenile rights. This Award is given annually by the MBLA in the amount of $2,000.00.

Eligibility Criteria and Application Process

Law Student Members may apply for each of the three MBLA scholarships offered: The Honorable Justice Roderick L. Ireland Leadership and Juvenile Advocacy Award ($2,000), The Honorable Reginald Lindsay Public Service Award ($1,000), and the Fletcher “Flash” Wiley MBLA Legacy Award (two (2) students, up to $5,000). Although students may apply for more than one scholarship, no student will be awarded more than one scholarship in any given year.

Applicants for The Honorable Chief Justice Roderick Ireland Leadership and Juvenile Advocacy Scholarship Award must:

  • Demonstrate exceptional leadership skill;
  • Demonstrate compassion, integrity and commitment to juvenile justice through advocacy;
  • Be enrolled and in good standing at your law school at the time of application;
  • Exhibit strong academic achievement;
  • Demonstrate a commitment to practicing law in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; and
  • Be an MBLA member.

To be apply for this award, the applicant must submit the following:*

• Cover Letter
• Resume
• Law School Transcript
• One (1) Letter of Recommendation (Must be from an Employer or Professor)

Recommendation Letter should include:
▪ How long and in what capacity the recommender knows the applicant
▪ Evaluation of the applicant’s commitment to juvenile advocacy
▪ Evaluation of the applicant’s leadership abilities
▪ Any other relevant, special skills possessed by the applicant

*All scholarship application materials should be emailed to as a single PDF document. In the title of your PDF document, please indicate your name and the scholarship for which you are applying.

If you would like to support our scholarships you can do so by making a contribution to the MBLA Building The Legacy Scholarship Fund. This fund was created through a partnership with the Boston Bar Foundation. As the BBF is a 501(c)(3) organization, all contributions to the fund are tax-deductible to the extent provided by law.