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Patrick Picks Duffly For Supreme Judicial Court

Gov. Deval Patrick has chosen Fernande "Nan" Duffly to be the next associate justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, as the state's first black governor continues his record of breaking down racial, ethnic and gender barriers while filling top jobs.

Fernande “Nan” Duffly (Courtesy Harvard Law School)
Fernande “Nan” Duffly (Courtesy Harvard Law School)

The 61-year-old Duffly, a member of the Massachusetts Appeals Court, was born in Indonesia and would apparently become the first Asian-American to serve on the state's highest court.

The pick, the fourth on the seven-member court Patrick has made, will also put Patrick's personal imprint on a majority of members on the state's highest judicial panel.

"Judge Duffly brings 18 years of extraordinary judicial experience with her to the SJC," Patrick said at a news conference to announce his pick. "She is widely respected for her excellent judgment, keen insight, warm and collegial personality and a sharp, sharp intelligence."

Duffly's nomination comes a day after Patrick swore in the state's first black leader of the Supreme Judicial Court, elevating Roderick Ireland from associate justice to chief justice.

The governor has also appointed the first female head of the Massachusetts State Police, as well as the first black general to lead the Massachusetts National Guard.

Duffly said she supports increasing racial and gender diversity within the judiciary and the legal profession.

"I think it's important as a way of upholding the constitutional promise that we have that for equal opportunity and access to justice," Duffly said. "I think a diverse judiciary will do just that."

Duffly immigrated to the United States with her family at age 6 and later graduated from the University of Connecticut and Harvard Law School.

"When we immigrated to this country, when I was 6-and-a-half, I could speak no English," she said. "Many, many kind people provided us with food, shelter, clothes and opportunity.

She has been a judge for 18 years, first on the Probate and Family Court and as an associate justice on the appellate court for the past eight years.

Boston Bar Association President Donald Frederico says Duffly's experience on the Probate and Family Court will serve the state well.

"Because the court frequently addresses many important issues of family law, that's going to be a tremendous benefit both to the court, and to the people of the commonwealth," Frederico said.

Before she became a judge, Duffly was a partner at Boston's Warn & Stackpole, where she specialized in domestic relations cases.

Duffly has also advocated for more female judges. While serving as president of the National Association of Women Judges, she started a task force on the retention and promotion of women in the legal profession.

Patrick previously appointed Margot Botsford and Ralph Gants as associate justices of the SJC, and elevated Ireland, creating the vacancy for which Duffly is nominated.

All nominees must be approved by the Governor's Council, a nine-member panel headed by Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray.

WBUR's Steve Brown contributed reporting.

This program aired on December 21, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

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