State Representative Shaunna O’Connell made it perfectly clear this week that she opposes Supreme Judicial Court nominee Kimberly Budd. Even though Budd was nominated for the high court by Republican Governor Charlie Baker, O’Connell — a Taunton Republican — took to talk radio and her own website to call Budd unfit to serve. But O’Connell is wrong to oppose a candidate who has shown admirable judicial restraint and a deep respect for the rule of law over a long career. The eight-member Governor’s Council, which is set to vote Wednesday, should approve Judge Budd’s appointment.
O’Connell objects to Budd because of her “ideological comments” during last week’s confirmation hearings, and said in an interview Tuesday that the judge’s answers are particularly worrisome because she’ll have the power to change laws as an SJC justice. Answering a question at the hearing from Councilor Robert Jubinville, Budd said there are too many crimes included on the Sex Offender Registry. She also expressed a belief that illegal immigrants should be eligible for driver’s licenses — a proposal that is not exactly radical and has been periodically (and unsuccessfully) supported by Democrats in the Legislature. But some additional context is in order: Budd’s comments came during a five-hour hearing where she repeatedly signaled an intent to apply the laws of the Commonwealth equitably.
The Baker administration has, admirably, not backed down. That’s as it should be. Baker’s spokesman, William Pitman, stressed that there’s no litmus test for judicial nominees.
A case in point: Quizzed about the death penalty, Budd said she doesn’t believe in taking the life of another, “although I understand there are some crimes so heinous that the person may deserve to die.” If the question comes before her, she added, “I’d sideline my personal opinion and make a decision based on the law, and briefs, and arguments, and the Constitution.” It’s also worth noting that Budd, a former prosecutor, has a seven-year track record as Superior Court judge. The council should move quickly, when it meets on Wednesday, to approve her.