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Wolohojian faces questions during hearing for a seat on Massachusetts' high court

Appeals Court Judge Gabrielle Wolohojian addresses the Governor's Council at a Feb. 21, 2024 hearing to weigh her nomination to the Supreme Judicial Court.
Chris Lisinski
Appeals Court Judge Gabrielle Wolohojian addresses the Governor's Council at a Feb. 21, 2024 hearing to weigh her nomination to the Supreme Judicial Court.

Around a hundred supporters including lawyers, judges, and court staff packed into the State House's largest hearing room Wednesday morning to support Appeals Court Judge Gabrielle Wolohojian's nomination to sit on the state's highest court.

The Cambridge resident has "distinguished herself as a fair-minded jurist," Gov. Maura Healey said as she introduced her second nominee to the Supreme Judicial Court.

"Time and again, Judge Wolohojian has proven herself to be a person of wisdom and integrity, deeply committed to both the rule of law and the strengthening of our community," Healey told members of the Governor's Council.

The governor made little reference to her past relationship with Wolohojian, her domestic partner of several years with whom she shared a home in Charlestown, and Wolohojian did not address the personal connection in her introductory remarks as the hearing got underway.

Healey said she knew "from experience" that Wolohojian "is a remarkable jurist, uniquely talented, thoroughly prepared, generously willing to serve, and deeply committed to our judicial institutions."

"And I know that personally. As I have said in the past, a personal relationship — and my personal relationship — with Judge Wolohojian should not deprive the people of Massachusetts of an outstanding SJC justice," the governor said.

Lt. Gov. Kimberley Driscoll, who co-chaired the hearing, referred to Wolohojian's 16 years on the Appeals Court and called her "one of our state's most experienced appellate judges."

Wolohojian said she paused Wednesday morning and was "struck" by the support of her colleagues.

"And I realized that their trust and support — that if I were elevated, they would be happy to have me review their work —struck me as the greatest trust and endorsement that I could receive. I will be forever grateful for that," Wolohojian told members of the Governor's Council.

Councilor Tara Jacobs, a North Adams resident, sought to ask questions of Healey before the governor departed the auditorium. Councilors usually have an opportunity to ask followup questions after a witness speaks at a confirmation hearing. But Healey exited sshortly after her remarks.

"Not of the governor, no," Driscoll told Jacobs. "But we do have witnesses that are coming."

Jacobs said she's struggling with the optics of that situation, and other issues.

"There's the regional equity element of it that we [western Massachusetts] have no representation at the SJC and was there an equal opportunity across the board for those who weren't, what could be called, a deep insider," she said.

Wolohojian responded that the selection process — which she's been through before — was similar to what she experienced in the past.

"I understand your concern about the optics, but sitting from my chair, I have done everything like every other candidate," she said.

The Governor's Council could vote on the confirmation as soon as next week.

NEPM reporter Adam Frenier contributed to this report.

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