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Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday named Massachusetts Appeals Court Justice Elspeth Cypher to fill an upcoming vacancy on the Supreme Judicial Court, marking the Republican's fourth nomination to the state's seven-member highest court in just over two years in office.
If confirmed by the Governor's Council, Cypher, 57, would replace associate justice Margot Botsford, who will reach the mandatory retirement age of 70 in March.
Baker noted Cypher's nearly three decades of experience in civil and criminal proceedings and said her "temperament and understanding of the law" will serve her well on the high court.
Cypher was named to the appeals court in 2000 by then-Gov. Paul Cellucci, a Republican. Before that, she served for 12 years as an assistant district attorney in Bristol County. The Pittsburgh native is a graduate of Emerson College and the Suffolk University School of Law.
Cypher said she was honored to be nominated to a "court of great tradition and history and reputation." The Supreme Judicial Court calls itself the oldest continuously operating appellate court in the Western Hemisphere.
Baker last year filled three seats on the high court with Associate Justices Frank Gaziano, David Lowy and Kimberly Budd, all of whom had previously served as Superior Court judges. All were unanimously approved by the Governor's Council, which is made up of seven Democrats and one Republican.
The moderate governor's judicial picks have generally been viewed as legal centrists, though Baker said he has avoided labels in choosing candidates and instead tried to tap nominees who would reflect the high court's traditional independence.
"If you think you know how they are going to decide cases, often enough you are going to be wrong," he said.
Cypher has authored hundreds of appellate decisions.
Last year, she wrote a unanimous decision that found a group of current and former Harvard University students calling themselves the Harvard Climate Justice Coalition had no legal standing to force the school's governing board to divest its holdings in fossil fuel companies.
A 2008 decision authored by Cypher overruled a lower court and ordered the state's Medicaid program to pay for a teenage girl's surgery to have removed a painful pad of fat from her neck caused by HIV medications.
Baker nominees will likely comprise a majority of the state's high court for the next decade or longer, and he isn't done yet.
Justice Geraldine Hines will also hit the retirement age later this year, giving Baker the chance to name a fifth member of the court — all within the first three years of his first term.
Bostford has been an associate justice on the court since being named by then-Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat, in 2007.
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