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Kafker Takes Seat On Mass. High Court After Private Swearing In

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Scott Kafker was sworn in Monday afternoon as the newest justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, replacing Geraldine Hines who retired Friday.

Kafker, who previously served as chief justice of the Appeals Court, took the oath of office in a private State House ceremony, a spokesman for Gov. Charlie Baker said.

A Swampscott resident who served with Baker in Gov. William Weld's administration, Kafker is now the fifth justice Baker has placed on the high court bench.

Two of the seven judges, Chief Justice Ralph Gants and Associate Justice Barbara Lenk, were appointed by Gov. Deval Patrick, as was Hines.

Kafker was sworn in by Lon Povich, Baker's chief legal counsel, and Sharon Casey, deputy counsel and executive director of the Judicial Nominating Commission, according to Baker press secretary Billy Pitman. A formal ceremony will be held later, with details to be announced by the court.

SJC justices Kimberly Budd, David Lowy and Elspeth Cypher — all Baker appointees — attended, as did Kafker's family and friends, Appeals Court staff, and U.S. District Court Judge Mark Wolf, for whom Kafker clerked.

Hines joined the high court in 2014, becoming the first African-American woman to serve as a Supreme Judicial Court judge after serving on the Superior Court and Appeals Court benches. She turns 70, the mandatory retirement age for state judges, in October.

Before the court heard oral arguments on May 4, Gants delivered remarks in honor of Hines' retirement, praising her for "speaking truth to power since you were a small girl growing up in the segregated South, the oldest of ten children, living on the edge of poverty in the heart of Jim Crow."

Hines entered private practice in 1982 and joined her colleagues Margaret Burnham and Judith Dilday to co-found the first law firm of women of color in New England, Gants said. She became a judge in 2001, nominated by Gov. Paul Cellucci to the Superior Court.

"I think it is fair to say that one who has devoted her entire life to speaking truth to power is not the retiring type," Gants said. "We will give her a few months to breathe; her daughter has travel plans for her that include possibly a trip to Europe and another to Madagascar. But I expect it will not be long before she will return to the causes she shed when she put on her judicial robe, and become a passionate and effective advocate to protect voting rights and the rights of immigrants. And I doubt it will be long before her adversaries learn that their wisest course is to give in now, to spare themselves the inevitable defeat later."

The Governor's Council unanimously confirmed Kafker as a Supreme Judicial Court judge on July 19.

A six-member screening commission tasked with recruiting and screening candidates for the newly vacant position of Appeals Court chief justice is accepting applications until Aug. 28.

According to a statement, the commission is seeking candidates "with judicial and managerial experience who possess the temperament, ability and integrity to freely, impartially and independently interpret the laws and administer justice, and to work collaboratively with their colleagues in crafting opinions and administering the judicial branch of government."

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