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SJC Justice, Alumna Elspeth Cypher on Honoring Facts, Writing Well

Newly appointed Supreme Judicial Court Justice Elspeth Cypher ‘80, talked to Emerson students about her time at the College, the challenges of law school, and about the importance of facts in communications and in life.

Cypher spoke at the Emerson Visitors Center on Thursday, March 23, in a conversation moderated by Spencer Kimball, senior scholar-in-residence in Communication Studies, and Assistant Professor of Journalism Michael Brown.

While answering a question about expanding the curriculum of Communication Studies, Cypher said that it should go on to stress the indelibility of facts.

“We have to agree there are facts, there are no ‘alternative facts’ in the world,” Cypher said, referring to presidential advisor Kellyanne Conway’s infamous defense of the administration’s false inauguration numbers claims. “We have to be in agreement of the rules and that we are all playing by the same rules. We have to have respect for all the players in all branches [of the government] and make sure that we understand each other,” she said.

Cypher, a communication studies major at Emerson who later earned her J.D. from Suffolk University School of Law, said being back at Emerson reminded her of her time at the school.

“I always just loved Emerson,” the justice said. “Emerson has always been fabulous. It was the best time of my life…it is nice coming back, feeling that energy again.”

Her degree from Emerson and the skills she acquired here, she believes, helped her greatly in her career.

“Learning how to write well is very important,” Cypher said. “Emerson teaches writing well. It is a very important skill.”

She also spoke about the challenges of being in law school.

“What is challenging is that a ball of material is thrown at you in an intense competitive environment, and you have to be able to not focus on the competition and not be unnerved by it. You have to focus on learning,” she said.

Kimball, who facilitated the discussion, said that this was a great opportunity for his students to speak in front of an SJC Justice.

“She is really down to earth and a bright mind,” Kimball said. “I find judges to be the smartest people in the world, and she exceeded those expectations in today’s discussion.”

Cypher was nominated to the state’s highest court 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. She will be sworn in on April 3.

Cypher was appointed to the Massachusetts Appeals Court in 2000; prior to that, she was chief of the appellate division of the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office.


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