Healey Nominates Abortion-Supporting Former Aide For Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2023/12/08/healey-nominates-abortion-supporting-former-aide-for-massachusetts-supreme-judicial-court/

A 43-year-old abortion supporter who could serve until 2050 is Governor Maura Healey’s first nominee to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

Elizabeth Dewar, the state solicitor in the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office, is the first nominee to the state’s highest court not to have served as a judge since 2000.

Dewar was a signer of the state attorney general’s friend-of-the-court brief filed in October 2021 in a federal lawsuit that challenged Texas’s then-ban on abortion after six weeks.

The brief said the Texas abortion ban (known as Senate Bill 8) “represents a new and dangerous frontier in the quest by some State legislatures to restrict or eliminate abortion access … in open and purposeful disregard of Roe, Casey, and their numerous progeny.”

Rebecca Hart Holder, president of Reproductive Equity Now and an ally of the Healey administration, said she expects Dewar as a justice on the state’s highest court “to make profound impacts and create a lasting legacy for reproductive freedom in the commonwealth.”

“As state solicitor, Elizabeth (Bessie) Dewar has continuously led efforts to advance reproductive equity within Massachusetts’ borders and combat anti-abortion attacks across the country. Bessie played an integral role in the Attorney General’s office, authoring briefs against Texas Law SB8, the Texas six-week abortion ban and bounty hunter law,” Hart Holder said in a press release Thursday.

At the time of the brief, abortion was considered a federal constitutional right because of U.S. Supreme Court rulings dating back to 1973. In June 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) in a case called Jackson Women’s Health Center v. Dobbs, sending abortion law back to the states.

Texas currently bans all abortions.


Former Breyer Law Clerk

Dewar grew up in Connecticut. She graduated from Harvard College in 2002. She later graduated from Yale Law School.

Dewar clerked for Justice Stephen Breyer, a Bill Clinton appointee who before he retired in 2022 was one of the liberal members of the U.S. Supreme Court. She also clerked for Judge William Fletcher (a Bill Clinton appointee), of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit; and for the late Judge Louis Pollak (a Jimmy Carter appointee), of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Dewar is the daughter of Alison Richard, an anthropologist who is a former provost at Yale University and former vice-chancellor (the top non-ceremonial post) at the University of Cambridge in England. Her father, the late Robert E. Dewar Jr., was a professor of anthropology at the University of Connecticut.

Dewar lives in Jamaica Plain with her husband and two daughters, according to the governor’s office.


Not A Judge

Dewar is the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office’s second state solicitor, an office created in 2013 when Martha Coakley was the state attorney general. The Office of State Solicitor “handles selected important appeals and amicus briefs itself,” according to the state Attorney General’s web site.

Dewar has not served as a judge, which is a typical stepping stone for nominees to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. The most recent non-judge to be nominated for the state’s highest court is Robert Cordy, whom then-Governor Paul Cellucci, a Republican, nominated in 2000. Cordy, who was in private practice at the time, had also previously served as chief legal counsel to Cellucci’s predecessor, Governor William Weld, a Republican, according to State House News Service.

Governor Maura Healey, a Democrat, appointed Dewar as state solicitor in 2016, when Healey was the state attorney general.

When Healey became governor in January 2023, she appointed the then-first-assistant attorney general, Kate Cook, to be her chief of staff in the governor’s office. Shortly before leaving the attorney general’s office, Healey appointed Dewar as the new first assistant attorney general – which meant that Dewar became acting attorney general when Healey resigned as attorney general.

Dewar served as acting state attorney general for 13 days — between Healey’s resignation as attorney general on January 5 and January 18, when the current state attorney general, Andrea Campbell, took office.

On Thursday, Healey touted Dewar’s work in the state attorney general’s office.

“Bessie Dewar is a consensus builder who has significant experience working with the Supreme Judicial Court and also a deep passion for the important work that the Court does. She is a true student of the institution, and I am confident that she is the right person to fill this seat in this pivotal moment for the Court,” Governor Maura Healey said in a written statement Friday, December 8.

The mandatory retirement age for state judges is 70. At 43 years old, Dewar could in theory serve 27 years on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. In the interim, she would also be a possible candidate for a federal judgeship during a future Democratic presidential administration.

On the state Supreme Judicial Court, Dewar would succeed Elspeth Cypher, 64, who is planning to leave the court January 12, 2024 in order to become a visiting professor at Boston College Law School.

For Dewar to join the state’s highest court, her nomination needs confirmation from the Massachusetts Governor’s Council, an elected part-time body whose members rarely challenge judicial nominations.

Healey has a forthcoming second pick for the seven-member state Supreme Judicial Court, to replace David Lowy, 63, who is planning to leave the court in February 2024 for a much-higher-paying job as general counsel of the University of Massachusetts.


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