Ralph Gants
Ralph Gants

BOSTON (AP) -- Gov. Deval Patrick is elevating Supreme Judicial Court Justice Ralph Gants to serve as chief justice of the state's highest court.

Gants will succeed as chief justice Roderick Ireland, who announced last month that he would be retiring in July.

Patrick will announce Gants' nomination later Thursday at the Statehouse.

If the governor's council approves the nomination, Patrick would then be in position to name a new associate justice to the seven-member court.

Gants was appointed to the state's high court by Patrick in 2009 after having serving as a Superior Court judge since 1997.

He is a one-time federal prosecutor who also worked as a special assistant under then-FBI director William Webster.