Kafker sworn in as Appeals Ct Chief Justice
By State House News Service | July 24, 2015, 7:12 EST
Written by Matt Murphy
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON Appeals Court Judge Scott Kafker, who three weeks ago became Gov. Charlie Baker’s first judicial nominee, was confirmed on Wednesday by the Governor’s Council to lead the Appeals Court as its next chief justice.
“If they’re all like that, we’re going to have an easy ride the next four years,” Councilor Terrence Kennedy said before making the motion to confirm Kafker. The council voted 7-1 in favor of elevating Kafker to chief justice.
Acting Gov. Karyn Polito administered the oath office to Kafker in her State House office shortly after the vote. Gov. Baker is traveling in Colorado where he is attending Republican Governors Association meetings and plans to spend some time in Aspen with wife Lauren.
Councilor Robert Jubinville cast the lone dissenting vote, telling the News Service after the meeting that he was disappointed by Kafker’s admission during his confirmation hearing that he knows little about drug addiction.
“I hope and pray he spends some time really learning the issue,” Jubinville said.
Jubinville called Kafker a “good judge” and a “good writer with a good temperament,” but questioned whether he had the desire to take on the “chief” portion of his new title and be an outspoken advocate lead the court and fight for reforms or increased funding on Beacon Hill.
Kafker has sat on the Appeals Court for the past 14 years and worked with Baker in Gov. William Weld’s administration as deputy legal counsel in the governor’s office. At the time, Kafker worked with chief legal counsel Robert Cordy, who is now a Supreme Judicial Court justice.
During his confirmation hearing, Kafker, 56, said he wants to speed up the Appeals Court’s issuance of decisions, promote diversity on staff and break down silos in the different court departments.
He also said he would work to use technology to improve the public’s experience with the court and the efficiency of those who work there, including speeding up the process for obtaining transcripts which can delay cases, allowing for e-filing of briefs and completing the transition “from paper to a digital world.”
Kafker was the first Appeals Court judge to bring an iPad loaded with all relevant case materials onto the bench during proceedings, a practice now followed by a larger number of Appeals Court judges. The court, which is allotted 25 judges, decides between 1,400 and 1,700 cases each year. It is currently operating with 20 justices, a situation that Kafker said will put added pressure on the court to issue timely decisions.
A 1981 graduate of Amherst College, Kafker earned his law degree from the University of Chicago Law School in 1985 and sits on the board of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. He fills the chief justice position vacated earlier this year by Justice Phillip Rapoza, who retired in June.
Councilor Marilyn Devaney told Polito, who presided over the vote on Wednesday, that she was pleased the administration decided to promote from within the court. “I believe in promotion from within,” she said.
She also said she would like to see Kafker get more involved in the issues surrounding drug addiction.
Councilor Jennie Caissie, the only Republican on the council, praised the Baker administration for putting forward an “outstanding nominee” with its first judicial appointment.
@COPYRIGHT STATEHOUSE NEWS SERVICE