Judges visit campus for ‘Conversation About the Law’ with students

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Massachusetts Supreme Court Justices Kimberly Budd (right) and Elspeth Cypher (left) came to the college to speak to students about their careers. Photo by Anissa Gardizy / Beacon Staff

By Anissa Gardizy

A pair of Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Judges highlighted the importance of knowing how to write well as students advance in their professional careers during a panel at the college on Tuesday.

Justice Kimberly S. Budd and Justice Elspeth B. Cypher ‘80 joined professors Mike Brown and Spencer Kimball, who moderated the panel in room 503 of the Ansin Building, for a “Conversation About the Law.” The event comes one semester before the college will debut a new pre-law minor with the School of Communications in fall 2019.

“It is really important to be able to write well, clearly, and concisely to get your thoughts and ideas across,” Budd said during the panel. “I don’t know what is more important than that, quite frankly, because you will take that and use it wherever you go.”

Kimball said in an interview that the event catered towards college students’ growing interest in the law and law school.

“This [event] is for students that are truly interested [in law]—we are seeing a growing interest in law and see this as something are students will gravitate towards more in the future,” Kimball said.

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Brown knows both of the judges and said they keep their politics out of their court decisions.

“They value the law and the study of law—they are a couple of heroes as far as I’m concerned,” Brown said.

Cypher, 60, earned a bachelor’s degree from Emerson College in 1980 before attending night classes at Suffolk University Law School. At Emerson, Cypher said she participated in debate and competitive speaking endeavors.

Brown, who works in the college’s Journalism Department, taught Cypher when she studied Speech and Communication at the college. Despite his suggestion that she attend law school, Cypher attended Kent State University with aspirations of becoming a speech communications professor after graduating with a master’s degree. However, after one year, she returned to Boston to explore a different career path.

“I bumped into professor Brown on the street—on the corner of Berkeley and Beacon—and he said ‘When are you going to go to law school?’” Cypher said. “I am a lawyer because of Mike.”

After law school, she worked for a small Boston law firm, and then served as chief of the Appellate Division in Bristol County. In 2017, Gov. Charlie Baker appointed Cypher to the Supreme Judicial Court.

Budd, 52, earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Georgetown University, and a law degree from Harvard Law School. She said during the event that her former classmate’s career success—Barack Obama becoming president—encouraged her to apply to become a judge.

“When that happened, I was like, ‘okay he’s president, what am I going to do?’” Budd said. “In Massachusetts, the governor appoints [judges], and you have to apply—it is a pretty rigorous process.”

Former Gov. Deval Patrick appointed her as an Associate Justice of the Massachusetts Superior Court in 2009. Budd first served on the Superior Court, the trial court where she saw civil, criminal, and murder cases among others. Gov. Baker appointed her to the Supreme Judicial Court in 2016—making her the third African American to serve on the court.

During the event, both justices explained the benefits of Massachusetts appointing their judges as opposed to electing them. Thirty-eight states hold elections for judges, Ballotpedia reported in 2018.

“When you are running for office, you need to raise money,” Budd said. “You might raise money from companies who will appear before you [in court]. That’s not a great place to be in, so I really value being here in Massachusetts where we can decide what the law is based on what we really think the law is.”

Freshman Ava Budavari-Glenn attended the event and said she wants to earn a law degree to use in either non-profit or campaign work after graduation.

“I think it is something that is just good to have,” she said in an interview. “Both of the judges were brilliant today, it was great.”