Feb 22, 2024 - Politics

Healey defends judicial pick against conflict concerns

Photo illustration of Maura Healey with lines radiating from her.

Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photo: Pat Greenhouse/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Gov. Maura Healey's pick for a seat on the state's top court met with a parade of praise from legal colleagues and the governor herself yesterday, with few acknowledging the elephant in the room.

The elephant: Supreme Judicial Court nominee Gabrielle Wolohojian was formerly in a long-term relationship with Healey, a potential conflict of interest that raised questions about the nomination process.

What's new: Wolohojian yesterday faced the eight-member Governor's Council, which vets judicial nominees, to defend her record and answer inquiries on her stances on abortion, policing, child custody and legal precedent.

  • She said the nomination process under previous governors was the same as the vetting Healey's team gave her this time.
  • "I understand your concern about the optics, but sitting from my chair, I have done everything like every other candidate," Wolohojian told Councilor Tara Jacobs, who asked the judge about any special treatment.

The intrigue: Introducing Wolohojian in person, Healey called her a fair-minded jurist committed to the rule of law and community

  • "A personal relationship, and my personal relationship, with Judge Wolohojian should not deprive the people of Massachusetts of an outstanding SJC justice," Healey said.

What's next: The Council could vote as early as next week on Wolohojian's elevation to the SJC.

The other side: "In submitting a nomination to the highest court, a Governor must avoid even the semblance of a conflict of interest, and this nomination fails to pass that critical test," MassGOP Chairwoman Amy Carnevale said in a release after the hearing.

  • Carnevale said it's "difficult to conceive" that the personal relationship between Healey and Wolohojian didn't impact the nomination process.

💭 Deehan's thought bubble: Leave it to the GOP to call out the elephant the Democrats are avoiding.

  • But Wolohojian's 16-year career was held in such high regard by fellow jurists and the Council, she probably could have been elevated sooner had it not been for her then-romance with then-Attorney General Healey.

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