Massachusetts Governor’s Council Confirms Governor Healey’s Former Longtime Romantic Partner To State’s Highest Court

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The Massachusetts Governor’s Council has confirmed Governor Maura Healey’s former romantic partner to a seat on the state’s highest court.

The Governor’s Council voted 6-1 on Wednesday, February 28 for Gabrielle Wolohojian to join the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

Wolohojian, 63, can serve until she turns 70, the state’s mandatory retirement age, in December 2030.

Supporters lauded Wolohojian’s extensive experience – 16 years on the Massachusetts Appeals Court, the state’s second highest court – as well as her education and the support she has from many other judges.

Opponents decry what they call the optics of the governor appointing her former longtime domestic partner to the state’s highest court. Some also wonder whether Wolohojian will or should recuse herself in cases involving Healey’s administration.

All seven current members of the Massachusetts Governor’s Council are Democrats, as is Governor Healey.

The lone dissenting vote, Tara Jacobs, a Democrat from North Adams, said she voted no because of “concern around the process and the implications and the appearance.”

Jacobs said:


I just want to start by saying how much I do respect and have a great deal of admiration for the many, many nominees that we’ve received to date. But I do want to express some of the concerns that have continued to trouble me in this nomination process. We share values, myself and this administration, around diversity, equity, and inclusion. And wholly focusing on the process itself, putting aside the candidate for the moment, the nominee for the moment, but just fully looking at the process, I have struggled with a sense that the process itself is lacking in those values. In terms of diversity, my perception is that it was a very small and insular, like-minded group, lacking diversity in thought, but also in regional representation. In terms of equity, again, the regional inequity from the perspective of the council representing Western Massachusetts. And from an inclusion standpoint, it just felt very exclusionary in that, you couldn’t have a more insider nominee. And so I have concerns about that in terms of how it might dissuade people from applying who are not inside a network like that.

I continue to have some concerns around the recusal situation.

But I will say that I’ve received many, many communications. I think we all have. I’ve had calls, I’ve had texts, I’ve had emails, I’ve had snail mail. And for me, it’s been a very mixed set of communications. Many people have written in support and have underscored the qualifications, but in my district I’ve received as many calls and emails underscoring the disappointment that once again there’s a vacuum at the SJC from Western Mass. and Central Mass. that is longstanding. And other concerns as well about the impact on the court’s integrity, our highest court.

The last thing I will say is that I don’t want to invalidate the enormous qualifications of this candidate. I think it goes — unimpeachably, she has a fantastic resume and experience.

I do have a concern about her, as well. And the concern really is from, I’ve talked to her in depth, and my perception is that, you know, she has breathed rarefied air from the time she was young —  education, and through her career. And my perception from that is she intellectualizes the marginalized communities’ struggle in a way that it feels very much a bubble of privilege and detached from the struggle itself. So I do, I do have a concern about whether justice is best represented through that lens. But that is my only hesitation about the candidate herself. I’m really more coming from a place of concern around the process and the implications and the appearance that got us here today. And for all of these reasons, today I will be voting no.


Paul DePalo, a Democrat from Worcester and one of the six members of the Governor’s Council who voted yes, chided news accounts that focused on Wolohojian’s decade-plus live-in same-sex relationship with Healey, which began when both were lawyers at the Boston law firm Hale and Dorr and continued for most of the eight years that Healey served as the state’s attorney general.

DePalo said:


The discourse around this nominee has bothered me so much, I just really want to speak to it.

When this nomination was announced, in some corners, the public discourse jumped right over this nominee’s impeccable, unquestioned experience, her qualifications, her pedigree, her temperament, her reputation earned over a decade on the Appeals Court, writing hundreds of appeals decisions.

The narrative in some places jumped right to a salacious storyline designed to raise alarms. And on the surface level, it did. But we’re not here to rest on the surface level. We are here to conduct diligence and dig deeply into each nominee’s qualifications. And so, like many other nominees, the nominee came to Worcester to visit me in my office and we had a long-ranging conversation.

One of the things that I spoke with her about was ensuring, was my concern that we ensure that under the Massachusetts Constitution and in Massachusetts courts, we continue to uphold the rights and privileges that appear to be at risk on a national level. That is important to me because I do not want the government concerning itself with a woman’s health care or her bodily autonomy.

And I’ll take it a step further. I don’t want the government concerning itself with a woman’s past — emphasis on past — relationship choices. And I’d ask, when do we stop policing a woman’s body? How many years back do we have to go stop policing women? And to those who tell me that a relationship that ended years ago should be disqualifying for this position, I would ask them, should I advise my smart, confident, and maybe one day ambitious daughters to never date an ambitious person, because years later it might disqualify them from a position they have worked their whole lives to deserve?

And so, for those reasons, I’m disappointed with the public discourse around this nomination, and I look forward to voting yes to support this nominee. I think she will be an outstanding justice on our SJC.


Joseph Ferreira, a Democrat from Swansea, a lawyer, and a former Somerset police chief, said Wednesday that he asked Wolohojian when he met with her privately about how she has ruled on matters involving law enforcement. “All about having an orderly society, not a police state, but we have to be safe. And if we’re not safe, nothing else counts in life,” Ferreira said.

“And I’m pleased to report that she sent me a bunch of decisions that she wrote. And they were fair to the police and they were fair to defendants,” Ferreira said.

He added:  “And I got letters written from somebody who did hundreds of appeals representing criminal indigent defendants. He never won one in front of the judge, but said what a stellar judge she would make. At the end of the day, I do believe that she’s a very, very well-qualified person. The governor went on a limb to say she’s the most qualified person in the state. And I thought that was a little like, hmm, I don’t know. But you know what? I do agree with the governor. I think she is.”


Judicial Activism and Abortion

During the confirmation hearing Wednesday, February 21, Ferreira said certain Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decisions have tied the hands of police, to the point where many police officers are afraid to be active for fear of getting in trouble.

Ferreira at one point asked Wolohojian:  “Maybe you can comment on this, do you think sometimes the court goes above and beyond deciding the case in front of them and tries to create law from the bench, legislate from the bench?”

Wolohojian responded:  “Well, the SJC certainly has a broader, I would say scope than the intermediate appellate court does. I can only really speak not in generalities. I can try to explain to you my own approach to cases. I am a judge who very much feels that you wait for the issues to come as they’re presented in a case. That’s the only way you really have the security of knowing that you have an adequate record, and that you know the facts. Because every case has different facts. And if you try to decide something without any reference to facts, you’re going to be more likely to go astray. And that’s not something I want to do.”

Ferreira asked:  “Do you think there are cases that the SJC has decided that go above and beyond addressing the issue at hand?”

Wolohojian responded:  “Oh, with all due respect, Councilor, I’m not going to, I’m not going to, I’m not going to touch that one with a 10-foot pole. … Some of them are sitting right behind me.”

Ferreira probed for answers to hypothetical situations, but Wolohojian wouldn’t give him one, except for abortion.

The Massachusetts Constitution does not mention abortion. But in 1981, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court declared abortion a “fundamental right,” saying that the state constitution requires that abortion not only be legal but also publicly funded for poor women through the state’s Medicaid program as long as the state government also provides funding for pregnancy-related health care. (The case is called Mary Moe vs. Secretary of Administration and Finance.)

A transcript of a brief exchange on abortion on Wednesday, February 21 is below:


Joseph Ferreira:  But you answered other questions about abortion and things like that, right?


Gabrielle Wolohojian:  I don’t think I was asked that question. I wasn’t asked a question about abortion.


Joseph Ferreira:  Do you feel like … What is your stance on reproductive rights?


Gabrielle Wolohojian:  Oh, I completely respect the law that we have in Massachusetts concerning reproductive rights.



As reported by New Boston Post last week, the members of the Governor’s Council did not probe Wolohojian on whether she would have to recuse herself from cases involving Governor Healey’s administration. Governor’s Council members also did not ask Wolohojian why as a state Appeals Court judge she recused herself from cases involving the state Attorney General’s office. (Healey served as state attorney general from January 2015 to January 2023.)

To more general questions on recusal, Wolohojian said she would evaluate recusal on a case-by-case basis.

The governor during a press conference February 7 said that Wolohojian as a member of the state Supreme Judicial Court would not have to recuse herself from cases involving the governor’s office.

On Tuesday, February 27, Boston Public Radio co-host Jim Braude asked Healey what the difference is between Healey as attorney general and Healey as governor when it comes to recusal for Wolohojian.

A transcript of the back-and-forth is below. (It starts at 38:54 of the WGBH audio.)


Jim Braude:  I have one quick question about recusal because I’m totally confused. I think I read in the Globe that you said you didn’t see a need for recusal. I then read in an editorial in the Globe that when you were the Attorney General and even after you ended being the Attorney General, Judge Wolohojian recused herself from every case involving the Attorney General’s office, not a case-by-case basis.

So assuming those facts are right –

Forget what you said, let’s just talk about what she did while you were attorney general and even after your relationship ended, is what I was trying to say, not when you ended as attorney general.

Why would she apply a uniform rule with Maura Healey as attorney general, and a case-by-case rule with Maura Healey as governor?


Governor Maura Healey:  Umm — Well first of all that’s not what was – that’s not what she said.  And what — what was said is that it’s one thing to go back and look at the record and be able to say, “I recused myself from, and this is the way I handled it.”

Also, I was attorney general. I was the state’s lead lawyer, the one practicing before those courts. It’s a different position now, as governor, when I’m not, and my team is not, practicing before the court. So it poses a different question.

What is important here, though, is that the answer on recusal has been said time and time again, including by some of the most illustrious and well-regarded justices of the state, that the answer to the question is:  “I will evaluate it on a case-by-case basis,” which is the rule and operating principle of recusal.


After the Governor’s Council vote on Wednesday, February 28, the Massachusetts Republican Party criticized the Governor’s Council for confirming Wolohojian and for, in the party’s view, not asking Wolohojian tough questions during the confirmation hearing last week.

Amy Carnevale, party chairman, challenged Governor Healey’s contention that Wolohojian won’t have to recuse herself from cases involving the governor’s administration as a member of the Supreme Judicial Court even though as an Appeals Court judge she did recuse herself from cases involving the state Attorney General’s office when Healey was state attorney general.

She also suggested that the nomination and confirmation of Wolohojian are evidence there is something wrong with Massachusetts politics.

“This process epitomizes the real challenges the state encounters under one-party rule,” Carnevale said in a written statement. “Unchecked rubber-stamped government results in poor policy and decisions, such as the approval of Wolohojian to Massachusetts’s highest court. I hope this serves as a wake-up call to residents, emphasizing the necessity of electing more Republicans to positions. Better representations will ensure that Democrats cannot simply steamroll policies and make questionable appointments without any real form of oversight.”


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