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Newly Confirmed SJC Justice Cypher ’80 to Speak at Emerson

Justice Elspeth Cypher '80, right, is nominated to the Supreme Judicial Court on February 8 by Gov. Charlie Baker, center, and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito. Cypher was confirmed to the SJC on March 8, and will speak at Emerson on March 23. File photo/

Justice Elspeth Cypher ’80, recently confirmed as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court, Massachusetts’ highest appellate court, will speak at her alma mater on Thursday, March 23.

Cypher, previously a Senior Associate Justice of the Massachusetts Appeals Court, was nominated to the SJC by Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito on February 8, and confirmed by a unanimous vote of the Governor’s Council on March 8.

“Justice Cypher has the dedication, intelligence, and integrity to serve the people and the Commonwealth’s highest court with fairness and wisdom on the most significant of legal matters,” Baker said in a statement.

Cypher will speak from 5:00-6:00 pm on March 23 at the Emerson Visitor Center, 104 Boylston Street. Assistant Professor of Journalism Michael Brown and Spencer Kimball, senior scholar in residence in Communication Studies, will facilitate a conversation with Cypher about law and communication, as well as how to use communication as an alternative to violence to resolve conflicts.

The SJC’s Chief Justice and six Associate Justices hear appeals and write opinions on civil and criminal cases from across the Commonwealth. Cypher replaces retiring Justice Margo Botsford.

Cypher graduated with a BA from Emerson, magna cum laude, and earned a JD, cum laude, from Suffolk University Law School in 1986.

Brown taught Cypher while she was an Emerson student, and said in a previous interview that she was “as smart as anybody I ever knew.”

After law school, Cypher spent a couple of years as an associate at a Boston law firm, and then became an assistant district attorney in Bristol County, where she eventually rose to become chief of the appellate division, arguing cases before the SJC. In 2000, she was named Lawyer of the Year by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly for her work in the long-running prosecutions of James Kater for the 1978 murder of Mary Lou Arruda, according to her biography on the Massachusetts Appeals Court webpage.

Also in 2000, then-Gov. Paul Cellucci appointed her to the Appeals Court, where she most recently chaired the personnel committee.

For many years, Cypher taught courses on legal writing; criminal procedure; criminal law; and women, law, and the legal system at what is now the University of Massachusetts School of Law–Dartmouth. She has served as co-chair of the Massachusetts Bar Association’s criminal law section, according to the bio.


A native of Pittsburgh, Cypher and her wife, Sharon Levesque, live in Assonet, Massachusetts, and have one son.

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