- Associated Press - Monday, June 26, 2017

BOSTON (AP) - Gov. Charlie Baker nominated Massachusetts Appeals Court Chief Justice Scott Kafker to serve on the state’s highest court Monday.

The Republican called Kafker a “distinguished and highly experienced jurist” whose “knowledge and commitment to the law” will be a welcome addition to the Supreme Judicial Court.

“Without a doubt, the commonwealth has been tremendously well served by his work over the past 25 years and I’m confident his extensive knowledge in civil and criminal law in the courts of Massachusetts will continue to serve our commonwealth’s highest court and all of those before it thoughtfully and impartially,” Baker said.

Kafker, whose nomination must still be approved by the eight-member Governor’s Council, is Baker’s fifth nominee to the seven-member court since he took office in 2015.

“I am deeply honored by this nomination and fully understand the sacred public trust committed to the Supreme Judicial Court,” the 58-year-old Kafker said.

Kafker said he always believed in public service and decided to serve in state government after recovering from cancer in 1990.

Former Republican Gov. Paul Cellucci appointed Kafker to the Massachusetts Appeals Court in 2001. He was appointed chief justice by Baker in 2015.

Before joining the Appeals Court, Kafker served as chief legal counsel for the Massachusetts Port Authority, where he was responsible for all legal, insurance, and collective bargaining matters. From 1991 to 1993, Kafker served as deputy legal counsel for former Republican Gov. William Weld.

Kafker graduated from Amherst College in 1981 and obtained his law degree from the University of Chicago Law School in 1985, where he was an editor on the law review.

Baker acknowledged the rare opportunity his administration has had to nominate so many members of the court in so brief a time, saying that the process will become what he called “a significant part of our legacy” in office.

Baker said that understanding is reflected in the care the administration has taken in selecting nominees. In February 2016, Baker named a statewide 12-member Supreme Judicial Nominating Commission to help recruit, screen and recommend applicants.

“The greatest measure of how seriously we’ve taken this process are the people that we’ve nominated,” Baker said. “They are all exceptional jurists, exceptional minds and exceptional people, which is exactly who should be serving on the court.”

If approved, Kafker would fill the seat currently held by Justice Geraldine Hines, who will reach the mandatory retirement age of 70 later this year.

In March, the Governor’s Council voted unanimously to approve Baker’s fourth nominee, former State Appeals Court Judge Elspeth “Ellie” Cypher, who replaced former associate justice Margot Botsford, who reached the mandatory retirement age in March.

Councilors have previously confirmed three other justices, Frank Gaziano, David Lowy and Kimberly Budd, also nominated by Baker to fill vacancies on the SJC.

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