Gov. Deval Patrick's latest nominee to the state's highest court faced a confirmation hearing Wednesday.
Appeals Court Judge Barbara Lenk would be the first openly gay justice on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. Supporters and critics of Lenk were invited to testify Wednesday.
SJC Chief Justice Roderick Ireland opened the hearing by urging the eight-member Governor's Council to approve Lenk.
Ireland said he has known Lenk for 16 years. He said she is intelligent, conscientious and has balanced judgment. He also called her a consensus-builder and a "nice human being."
At least three panel members have faulted Patrick for his handling of her nomination, partly because Patrick noted Lenk would be the court's first openly gay member.
But Councilor Jenn Cassie says that's ridiculous.
"It never should have been an issue," Cassie said. "If it had never been mentioned at that press conference, we wouldn't even be discussing it instead of belaboring a point that has zero to do with this confirmation process."
Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray, who is chairing the hearing, cautioned witnesses to focus on "substantive issues."
Council members also used the hearing to ask whether Lenk properly disclosed her wife's interest in cases that came before her on the Appeals Court.
With reporting from The Associated Press and the WBUR Newsroom
This program aired on April 27, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.