Justice Elspeth B. Cypher addresses the UMass Law Class of 2019

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Justice Elspeth B. Cypher addressed the graduates at UMass Law's May 13 Commencement ceremony.

Justice Cypher's Commencement address

Justice Elspeth C. Cypher receives honorary degree

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Justice Elspeth Cypher addressed UMass Law's graduating class during the 2019 Commencement ceremony. Justice Cypher was also honored with an honorary Juris Doctorate to honor her tireless work for justice in the Commonwealth.

Justice Cypher, a native of the SouthCoast, was appointed to the Supreme Judicial Court by Governor Baker on March 31, 2017. For many years, Justice Cypher was an adjunct professor at UMass Law, where she taught courses on legal writing, criminal procedure, criminal law, as well as women, law, and the legal system. She has participated in numerous educational programs for judges and lawyers and has written extensively about developments in criminal law in Massachusetts.

Justice Cypher receiving honorary degree at UMass Law 2019 Commencement

Advice for graduates

Using the metaphor of law as a set of "pipes and tubes carrying order, fairness, and justice," Justice Cypher told the Class of 2019 that they are what keeps the Rule of Law flowing, before advising them on ten things they can do in their daily lives to help define how they will be in the law.

Telling them to believe that there is truth and there is facts, Justice Cypher said, "If you abandon facts, you abandon freedom. If nothing is true, no one can criticize power."

She ended her address by asking the graduates, “We the people. We are the steam energizing the Rule of Law. Class of 2019, how are you going to be in the law? How are you going to breathe life in the Rule of Law?”

UMass Law Student Speaker Casey Shannon at 2019 Commencement

Class of 2019: the definition of resilient

Casey Shannon, JD '19 focused her student address on the resiliency of her classmates: "Whether it was you, me, or another classmate, we stood together and rose from each and every fall life handed us. Class of 2019, we are the definition of resilient, and as we continue on this journey, together we rise."

Casey served as the Business/Conference Editor of the UMass Law Review during the 2018-2019 academic year and collaborated with faculty, staff, legal professionals, and state legislators to present the 2019 Law Review Symposium: Navigating a New Reality: A Multi-Platform Look at Media and the Law.

"True justice is blind"

"Remember that Lady Justice is usually represented wearing a blindfold and carrying scales. True justice is blind to differences of race, gender, and power," Chancellor Robert E. Johnson told the graduates. "True justice works for what is right, as you know from your many hours of pro bono service in local communities."

Students are required to complete at least 30 hours of pro bono legal services while at UMass Law. The average for the Class of 2019 is more than 130 hours. Jalessa Almonacy, JD '19 received the Pro Bono Award during the ceremony for completing 644 hours.

"You are graduating from a law school whose graduates are thoroughly outperforming on bar pass rates and employment outcomes, and, most importantly, making major impact in people's lives. And soon, you will be joining them," Dean Eric Mitnick said.

He closed his speech by telling them to remember the potential of their degrees. "Remember what makes our profession noble: liberty, equality, due process, fairness, justice. These ideas are not just ideals. They are the very real, concrete commitments of our profession, and there is no more honorable calling than that."

More information

Video: 2019 UMass Law Commencement


School of Law