Kimberly Budd, the first Black woman nominated as chief justice of the state’s highest court, was commended as a “worthy and superior choice” by Governor Charlie Baker during opening remarks Thursday at her confirmation hearing before the Governor’s Council.
Budd, an associate justice on the Supreme Judicial Court since 2016, is “absolutely the right candidate” to lead the court, Baker said, based on her experience and “her skills as a collaborator, a listener and a leader."
"In this time especially, those skills are of utmost importance, not just here in Massachusetts, but around the country and, I would argue, in some respects around the world.”
Budd, 54, would succeed Ralph D. Gants, who died suddenly in September.
Budd was selected after a search for “a nominee who could step into that role and continue to bring the professionalism, the kindness, the grace and the decency and the humility that Ralph and his predecessors have always brought to that role," Baker said.
“She will make us all enormously proud if you affirm this nomination," Baker said.
Budd was appointed a Superior Court judge in 2009 by Governor Deval Patrick, a Democrat. Baker named her to the SJC seven years later. She is a graduate of Georgetown University and the 1991 class at Harvard Law School, which also included former President Obama. She is a former attorney for Harvard University and prosecutor in the US Attorney’s office.
Budd attended the hearing in-person, along with her husband, son, niece, and father, former US attorney Wayne A. Budd.
Testifying by video, Geraldine S. Hines, who in 2014 became the first Black woman to serve on the SJC, applauded Baker for ending a “long-running historical void” by naming Budd to lead the court. If confirmed, Budd would join three other women of color as chief justice of a state’s highest court, in California, Louisiana and North Carolina.
“In all of her work she has shown herself to be a brilliant and fair-minded jurist who, at a time when our country and the Commonwealth face a reckoning on social justice, systemic racism, and the vitality of the rule of law, is ready to lead our courts in playing the role that courts must play,” said Hines, who retired from the bench three years ago.
Asked how she believes Budd will lead the court, Hines said she will bring “an iron fist in a velvet glove.”