Chief Justice Gants once said: “There is abundant room for discussions that begin with the words, ‘What if…?'”
This lifelong attitude was part of what made Ralph Gants a true pillar in the legal community. For him, “What if?” was not just a rhetorical question–it was a challenge. Chief Justice Gants championed progress and access to justice. He was never afraid to speak up, even if he spoke alone. Chief Justice Gants spoke out about injustices and corruption, and he inspired hope in a fairer justice system. It was in that spirit that he helped create the Access to Justice Commission in Massachusetts. Knowing he was paying attention to citizens with needs, and looking out for any future needs of the Commonwealth, was something we could always count on.
One of his later decisions was to close the courts statewide back in March. This decision was unpopular, and he faced loud opposition, but it ended up saving lives and it truly embodies his “people first” perspective. He always said that being the smartest person in the room wasn’t going to help anyone if you were not, first and foremost, a human being.
After the stay-at-home order had been issued, Chief Justice Gants was asked if any measures were being taken to help those dealing with Civil Appeals. “I’m not sure,” he said. “Let’s make it happen!” He saw a need, and he did whatever he could to help make a solution to that need.
Chief Justice Gants recognized that VLP was a leader, and the right organization to be tasked with the creation of a Civil Appeals virtual clinic. Chief Justice Gants knew how “agile, imaginative, and persevering our judicial workforce can be,” and therefore he had nothing but faith and confidence in organizations like ours as new realities of the Covid-19 pandemic set in. He once said that “there would be no justice without VLP.”
To mourn a public hero is difficult, but to grieve a friend hurts all the more. Chief Justice Gants was a vocal and active supporter of VLP since being appointed to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, and he has touched so many of our lives professionally and personally. We all can honor Chief Justice Gants’ spirit by continuing to persevere and by holding onto that inspiring voice in the back of our minds which spurs us on even when times are tough.
To quote Chief Justice Gants, we must keep going so that a future generation will say of us, “This was their finest hour.”
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