- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 10, 2016

BOSTON (AP) - The Governor’s Council unanimously confirmed Wednesday the third and final of Republican Gov. Charlie Baker’s nominees to fill vacancies on the state’s highest court, pointedly rejecting criticism from a state lawmaker who challenged Kimberly Budd’s views on sex offenders and the granting of driver’s licenses to people in the U.S. illegally.

Budd, a current Superior Court judge and former federal prosecutor, will take her place as an associate justice on the Supreme Judicial Court in the fall along with two other judges, Frank Gaziano and David Lowy, whose nominations also won unanimous approval from the eight-member elected council.

Rep. Shaunna O’Connell, a conservative Republican from Taunton, argued last week that Budd’s nomination should be withdrawn or voted down because of what O’Connell described as “disturbing biased comments,” made in response to questions posed by councilors during her confirmation hearing.

In a statement posted to her website, and in later broadcast interviews, O’Connell suggested that Budd believed there were too many people being listed on to the state’s Sex Offender Registry.

“If you are on the Sex Offender Registry, you have committed a sex crime, and the public has a right to know what dangerous sex offenders live and work in their communities,” O’Connell wrote.

Councilor Marilyn Devaney strongly defended Budd, saying she had answered a hypothetical question about a 16-year-old boy who had sex with a girl he had been dating for a year but who had not yet turned 16. If convicted of statutory rape, the youth - though not violent or a sexual predator - could be listed on the registry and his life essentially ruined, Devaney said.

“It was so misleading and so demeaning,” said Devaney of the legislator’s statement. “It’s just not fair.”

Councilor Jennie Caissie, the only Republican on the panel, also said O’Connell had taken Budd’s comments out of context.

“I think when you are going to make those criticisms, when you are going to attack a person with that kind of experience, integrity and respect in the legal community, you should really do your homework,” said Caissie, who noted that O’Connell did not attend the six-hour confirmation hearing last Wednesday.

Caissie added she had received written assurances from Budd that any rulings from the bench regarding driver’s licenses would follow state law that prohibits immigrants in the U.S. illegally from being issued licenses.

The recent retirements of SJC justices Robert Cordy, Fernande Duffly and Francis Spina gave Baker a unique opportunity to reshape the seven-member court. Justices Margot Botsford and Geraldine Hines will also reach the mandatory retirement age of 70 before Baker’s first term ends.

Baker on Wednesday thanked councilors for their “measured, timely and thorough examination and unanimous approval” of his first three nominees.

Budd’s presence along with Hines will mark the first time in the state’s history that two black women have served on the high court at the same time.

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