Baker defends Budd, says she’ll be ‘terrific justice’ on SJC

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STATE HOUSE — With one councilor already pledging his support and predicting successful confirmation, Gov. Charlie Baker on Tuesday stood behind his nominee to the Supreme Judicial Court Judge Kimberly Budd in the face of criticism from one Republican lawmaker who called on the governor to withdraw her nomination.

“Justice Budd is a perfectly and well qualified candidate to sit on the SJC. I think that was demonstrated by her track record, the people who spoke on her behalf and by her testimony,” Baker said.

Rep. Shaunna O’Connell, a Taunton Republican, said on Friday that Budd’s confirmation to the top court should be “in jeopardy” after Budd told members of the Governor’s Council that she didn’t see “any reason” why undocumented immigrants should not receive state driver’s licenses and believes too many people are being classified as sex offenders. O’Connell’s post on Facebook advocated for Budd’s nomination to be withdrawn and included the contact information of the eight councilors who are set to vote Wednesday.

“In the course of those long hearings, people can pick and choose at things they want to pick and choose at but she has a long public career of being somebody who understands that the most important thing you need to do when you sit behind that bench is to interpret the law and not to legislate from there and I think she’ll be a terrific justice if she’s confirmed by the Governor’s Council,” Baker said, responding to a question about O’Connell’s criticism.

Councilor Michael Albano, of Springfield, predicted Budd’s confirmation with at least five votes of support in an email on Tuesday morning.

“Judge Budd is eminently qualified to serve on the Supreme Judicial Court. This will be the easiest vote in my public service career,” Albano said.

O’Connell, however, was not alone in voicing concern over Budd’s comments.

Community VOICES President Jennifer Lane, who leads the Pepperell-based crime victims advocate group, said that until Budd clarified her comments about the sex offender registry Baker should “pull back” her nomination.

“As someone who advocates for women and children who have been assaulted,I find this comment insensitive and very concerning. The Sex Offender Registry offers valuable information to be used an awareness tool to keep the community safe. After years of working to improve the system, I don’t want to see a judge legislate from the bench on rolling back the clock. I have to wonder if this nominee knows the strict criteria that must be followed in assigning level classifications,” Lane said in a statement.

In response to questioning last week from Governor’s Councilor Robert Jubinville, Budd said she believes too many crimes are included by the Sex Offender Registry resulting in people appearing on the list that don’t need to be there.

“Until I hear a clarification that satisfies me and the thousands of victims in Massachusetts, I am urging Governor Baker to pull back Judge Budd’s nomination,” Lane said. “Institutional abuse is running rampant we should be strengthening Sex Offender Laws not weakening them.”

Supreme Judicial Court Justice Geraldine Hines was among those who testified in support of Budd’s confirmation. Suzanne DelVecchio, the former chief justice of the Superior Court, said of Budd, “She’s not rigid. She’s not to the right. She’s not to the left.”

— Written by Matt Murphy

Copyright State House News Service