BOSTON (AP) — Justice Kimberly Budd was nominated to be chief of the state's highest court by Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday.
Budd, who has been on the Supreme Judicial Court for four years, would be the first Black woman to serve as chief justice if she is confirmed. She would replace Chief Justice Ralph Gants, who died last month.
Baker described her as a well-respected and dedicated judge “who treats everyone with dignity." The Republican governor said Budd is the right person to lead the court as it faces unprecedented challenges brought on by the the coronavirus pandemic.
“Her resume speaks for itself, but above all it's her selflessness character and integrity that stuck out to me since the first time I met her,” Baker told reporters.
Her nomination needs to be approved by the Governor’s Council.
Budd, a former federal prosecutor, has served on the high court since 2016. She had previously served as an judge on the Massachusetts Superior Court. Earlier in her career, she prosecuted cases in the major crimes and drug units as an assistant U.S. attorney before going on to work in the general counsel's office at Harvard University.
Budd said the nomination was an honor but said the occasion was “bittersweet" because of the death of Gants, who she called a “mentor and friend.”
“If confirmed, I promise that I will give my very best effort as the chief of the oldest continuously running appellate court in the Western Hemisphere," she said.
Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins, who is the the first woman of color to hold such a job anywhere in Massachusetts, applauded what she called an "unprecedented appointment."
“It is imperative that courts represent the rich and diverse range of professions, races, religions, ethnicities, and orientations that make our Commonwealth great," Rollins said in a statement. “Justice Budd’s lived experiences bring a perspective to this role that will change the court moving forward.”
Former Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick, who ran for his party's presidential nomination last year, called Budd “an inspired choice.”
“She is a thoughtful, measured jurist, experienced in both trial and appellate courts, patient, collegial, empathetic and a great listener. Like her predecessor, she will take care to seek justice, not just technical legal accuracy,” Patrick said in a statement.
The Boston Bar Association also praised the governor's pick.
“Justice Budd’s career, including her 11 years on the bench, demonstrates her extraordinary legal acumen, her deep commitment to justice for all, and the careful attention she gives to every case that comes before her — all of which will serve her well in leading a court whose decisions affect the lives of all of us in so many ways," the association's president, Martin Murphy, said in an emailed statement.