BOSTON (State House News Service) – Gov. Charlie Baker made his first judicial nomination on Tuesday afternoon, nominating a former colleague from the Weld administration to be elevated to chief justice of the Massachusetts Appeals Court.
Associate Appeals Court Justice Scott Kafker, if confirmed by the eight-member Governor’s Council, would succeed retiring Appeals Court Chief Justice Phillip Rapoza, whose last day on the bench is Tuesday.
“Justice Kafker is an esteemed jurist that I am confident has the ability to lead this influential court, in its mission of rendering thoughtful, well-reasoned appellate decisions timely and efficiently and treating all those who come before the court fairly and impartially,” Baker said in a statement.
Kafker, 56, was appointed to the Appeals Court in 2001 by Gov. Paul Cellucci after working as chief legal counsel for the Massachusetts Port Authority and deputy chief legal counsel to Gov. William Weld. He has also worked at the firm Foley, Hoag and Elliot and clerked for U.S. District Court Judge Mark Wolf in Boston.
Weld administration era players testified to the roles Kafker played during those years at his 2001 nomination hearing. They included former Massport Chair Mark Robinson, who was secretary of administration and finance in the early Weld years; former Health and Human Services Secretary David Forsberg; Appeals Court Judge Susan Beck, who was an A&F attorney in the early 1990s; and former House Speaker Thomas Finneran. Robert Cordy, chief legal counsel under Weld and now a Supreme Judicial Court justice, attended the 2001 hearing.
At that hearing, Finneran said Kafker had “worked side by side” with Cordy and that his experience and character were the right blend for the Appeals Court. Beck recalled working with Kafker on arranging for the city of Chelsea’s receivership and preparing briefs for the SJC when legislators challenged a series of Weld vetoes.
A 1981 graduate of Amherst College, Kafker earned his law degree from the University of Chicago Law School in 1985.
Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants and Rapoza on Tuesday each issued statements of support for Kafker.
Said Gants: “Justice Kafker is a person of impeccable integrity and sound judgment who is widely admired in the judiciary and will prove to be a great Chief Justice of the Appeals Court. If confirmed, he will succeed Chief Justice Rapoza, who has served with distinction, dedication, and commitment.”
Rapoza said, “It has been a great honor to serve as a member of the Massachusetts judiciary for the last 23 years. In particular, during my nine years as Chief Justice of the Appeals Court it has been truly rewarding to work alongside our dedicated justices and staff. Justice Scott L. Kafker is an exceptional jurist and I am pleased that he has been nominated to serve as my successor. I believe the Appeals Court will be in good hands.”
Martin Healy, chief counsel for the Massachusetts Bar Association, said Kafker has authored over 900 appellate decisions on the bench and is considered “one of the brightest constitutional scholars on the court” who also has a “great handle” on administration functions.
“I think he’s got all the right tools needed for this position,” Healy told the News Service, predicting his nomination would go over well with the Legislature and the 24 other members of the Appeal Court bench. He also said Kafker’s familiarity with state government and the budget process from his time in early Weld administration will serve him well.
Copyright 2015 State House News Service