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Ralph Gants confirmed to lead state’s highest court

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Justice Ralph Gants will be the next chief justice of the state’s highest court, after a unanimous vote Wednesday by the Governor’s Council.

Gants will replace Chief Justice Roderick Ireland, who announced he will retire in July as he nears the mandatory retirement age of 70. Ireland has been chief justice for nearly four years.

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At 59 years old, Gants is the youngest member of the SJC and could be chief justice for a decade. He has been a judge in Massachusetts for 17 years.

Gants has served on the SJC since 2009, after he was elevated from the Superior Court. Governor William F. Weld appointed Gants to the Superior Court bench in 1997.

During his 33-year legal career, Gants also worked in the US attorney’s office, as an assistant to the director of the FBI, and as a defense attorney focused on white collar crime at the Boston firm Palmer & Dodge.

Born in New Rochelle, N.Y., Gants studied economics at Harvard University, earning a bachelor’s degree. He received his law degree from Harvard before going on to clerk for US District Court Judge Eugene Nickerson.

By tapping a sitting member of the court, Governor Deval Patrick will get an opportunity to make at least one more appointment to the high court before he leaves office. Patrick said that he has a pool of candidates in mind and plans to interview people soon.

When he nominated Gants, Patrick said he would wait until he was confirmed before announcing his next SJC pick.

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