BOSTON (CBS/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 its her selflessness character and integrity that stuck out to me since the first time I met her,” Baker told reporters.
“One of the things that makes a leader special is their ability to bring those around them together, because they are in fact hearing what they’re saying,” he said. “Great listeners – and Kim Budd is a great listener – give people a sense that their views, their ideas, that they matter.”
Her nomination needs to be approved by the Governor’s Council.
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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.
Budd also noted the historic nature of her nomination.
“The idea that I would be the first black female Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court is a little overwhelming, and it’s very meaningful to me,” she said. “I really have valued being on the SJC, being an Associate Justice, and just having a seat at the table and being able to raise issues or perspectives that might not otherwise be considered. And I will continue to do that.”
Budd said she only found out about her nomination on Tuesday. She added that right now she is focused on keeping the justice system running amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re in the middle of a pandemic. People in the Commonwealth are in a panic,” she said. “People are hurting, and we have to make sure that the judiciary is running as well as it can.”
The Boston Bar Association praised the governor’s pick of Budd as chief.
“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.
Budd’s elevation will leave two associate justice positions open, giving Baker the opportunity to round out the high court that is comprised entirely of his nominations.
“She’s a legal scholar, she’s an intellectual and she has a measured approach that is really important,” said Stesha Emmanuel Laborde, president of the Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association. “She has been very forthcoming and candid about her experiences both as a litigator and a judge. I think it’s that lived experience, on top of her being qualified, and well versed, that makes her so remarkable and a leader in her own right.”
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)