Baker to introduce Appeals Court justice nominee at hearing

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Gov. Charlie Baker is set on Wednesday to personally introduce his first judicial pick to the Governor’s Council, which will hold a public hearing on Judge Scott Kafker’s nomination to serve as chief justice of the Appeals Court.

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito plans to join Baker at the 11 a.m. hearing on Wednesday in the Governor’s Council chamber, according to a Baker aide. Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Robert Cordy, who served with Baker and Kafker in Gov. William Weld’s administration, is expected to testify on Kafker’s behalf.

According to a list of witnesses obtained by the News Service, councilors will also hear support for Kafker from Appeals Court Judge Elspeth Cypher, Appeals Court law clerk Brittany Williams and court officer John Harrison, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute general counsel Richard Bosky and DentaQuest general counsel and longtime friend David Abelman.

Councilor Terrence Kennedy is scheduled to preside at the hearing.

Baker, who held administration and finance and health and human services Cabinet posts during the administrations of Govs. Weld and Paul Cellucci, nominated Kafker on June 30. If confirmed, Kafker would succeed Appeals Court Chief Justice Phillip Rapoza, who has retired from the bench.

Kafker, 56, was appointed to the Appeals Court in 2001 by Gov. Cellucci after working as chief legal counsel for the Massachusetts Port Authority and deputy chief legal counsel to Gov. Weld under Cordy, who was then the governor’s chief counsel. He has also worked at the firm Foley, Hoag and Elliot and clerked for U.S. District Court Judge Mark Wolf in Boston.

At his 2001 nomination hearing, Weld administration era players testified on Kafker’s behalf. They included former Massport Chair Mark Robinson, who was secretary of administration and finance in the early Weld years; former Health and Human Services Secretary David Forsberg; Appeals Court Judge Susan Beck, who was an administration and finance attorney in the early 1990s; and former House Speaker Thomas Finneran.

At that hearing, Finneran said Kafker had “worked side by side” with Cordy and that his experience and character were the right blend for the court. Beck recalled working with Kafker to arrange for the city of Chelsea’s receivership and prepare briefs for the SJC when legislators challenged Weld vetoes.

A 1981 graduate of Amherst College, Kafker earned his law degree from the University of Chicago Law School in 1985.

Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants and Rapoza last month issued statements of support for Kafker.