Around New England

Charlie Baker May Soon Have Picked Every Member of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

October 18, 2020

Governor Charlie Baker is mulling applications to fill two vacancies on the state’s highest court.

Once he nominates candidates and the Governor’s Council confirms them, Baker will have selected every justice on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

It’s the first time that has happened since John Hancock was governor during the 1780s, legal experts told The Eagle-Tribune of Lawrence.

The court ordinarily has seven members, but it has been down one since the unexpected death of Ralph Gants, the chief justice, on September 14. Another justice, Barbara Lenk, turns 70 on December 2 and therefore, according to the state constitution, she must retire.

Baker, in his second four-year term, has served as governor since January 2015.

Some observers are pressuring Baker to name a black person or other racial minority to the court, according to The Eagle-Tribune.

The court currently has a black woman, Kimberly Budd. Lenk, a white woman, is a lesbian civilly married to another woman.

Another current justice, Elspeth Cypher, is a white woman.

The other justices (Frank Gaziano, Scott Kafker, David Lowy) are white men, as was the late chief justice, Gants.

That’s a drawback for Eileen Duff, a member of the Governor’s Council, which reviews nominees for judgeships and votes up or down on them.

Duff, a Democrat from Gloucester, said that Governor Baker, a Republican from Swampscott, should consider the race of criminal defendants when nominating justices to the state’s highest court.

“I’m not just talking about a court that reflects the diversity of the state, but the diversity of the people who are appearing in courtrooms, and that is not typically an educated white male,” Duff said, according to the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune.

Duff is a white woman whose campaign site features a photo of her with Hillary Clinton.

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