Lenk Confirmed To Mass. High Court

A state appeals court judge who will be the first openly gay justice on Massachusetts' highest court has been confirmed for the job.

The Governor's Council voted 5-3 in favor Wednesday to approve Barbara Lenk for the Supreme Judicial Court.

Barbara Lenk (Appeals Court)
Barbara Lenk (Appeals Court)

Councilors Charles Cipollini, Mary-Ellen Manning and Jennie Caissie voted against confirmation.

Some members of the council, which votes on all judicial nominations, had criticized Gov. Deval Patrick for referring to Lenk's sexual orientation while announcing her nomination last month. Some social conservatives testified at a confirmation hearing last week that Lenk might bring a pro-gay rights political agenda to the court.

But the governor has said Lenk was chosen for her qualifications and experience. She also has served in the superior court.

Lenk said as a judge her only allegiance is the rule of law.

She now joins the court that issued a landmark 2003 ruling making Massachusetts the first state to allow same-sex marriage. Lenk married her longtime partner after that vote.

Lenk succeeds Judith Cowin, whose retirement became effective last month.

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.



This program aired on May 4, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.


More from WBUR

Listen Live