BOSTON Gov. Deval Patrick has tapped Barbara Lenk, who would be the first openly gay Supreme Judicial Court justice, to fill an open slot on Massachusetts’ highest court.
Patrick nominated Lenk, a state appellate court justice, on Monday. He said the fact that Lenk is gay is a nice coincidence, as he seeks to bring diversity to the high court, but the governor stressed her qualifications as a longtime judge and said she brings a thoughtfulness and care that reflect a profound sense of justice.
Lenk said, if confirmed, she would bring more than just her academic and legal education.
“I’ll bring with me the sympathy and understanding of one who’s experienced a full life from both inside and outside the mainstream,” she said.
Lenk says her story is the American story where anything is possible.
“Each person who dons the judicial robe has had life experiences that leave their mark,” she said. “Mine have been rich and varied, bridging many divides, and these experiences allow me to see things from many perspectives.”
Gay and lesbian advocates cheered the nomination Monday.
“Patrick has always said that he wanted his administration and the courts to reflect the communities that they serve and this appointment does exactly that,” said Vickie Henry, of Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders.
If confirmed by the Governor’s Council, Lenk would succeed Judith Cowin, whose retirement becomes effective Tuesday.
Lenk is the fourth associate justice that Patrick has selected to the SJC, meaning that he now has personally selected a majority of the justices on the seven-member court.
In December 2010, Patrick nominated Fernande “Nan” Duffly to the SJC, its first Asian-American. Earlier in 2010, Patrick elevated Roderick Ireland to chief justice. He’s now the court’s first black chief justice.
Lenk was appointed to the Superior Court by former Gov. William Weld in 1993 and became an appellate justice in 1995.
A native of Queens, N.Y., she graduated from Harvard Law School in 1979 and joined the Boston law firm of Brown, Rudnick, Freed & Gesmer.
With additional reporting from The Associated Press.