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Mass. gov names Barbara Lenk to high court


Mass. gov names Barbara Lenk to high court

Barbara Lenk, who would be the first openly gay Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) justice, was nominated Monday by Gov. Deval Patrick to fill an open slot on Massachusetts’ highest court.

Patrick said he was honored to nominate Lenk.

“She is a brilliant and thoughtful jurist, with a deep sense of justice,” the governor said. “Justice Lenk will continue to make extraordinary contributions to the Commonwealth and our judicial system as a member of the highest court.”

If confirmed, Lenk, a state appellate court justice, would succeed Judith Cowin, who is retiring this month after 11 years as an associate justice on the high court.

The nomination of Lenk to the high court marks another in a series of firsts for Patrick. Last year, he elevated Roderick Ireland from associate justice to become the state’s first black chief justice.

Earlier this year, Patrick appointed Fernande “Nan” Duffly to associate justice, making her the first person of Asian American descent to serve on the SJC.

The nomination of the first gay justice comes nearly eight years after an historic Supreme Judicial Court that made Massachusetts the first state in the nation to allow gay marriage.

Lenk, a Carlisle resident, married her partner following the ruling.

At a news conference, she said the high court’s gay marriage ruling was “not the only decision that has had an impact on my life as a citizen.”

“Justice Lenk’s personal experiences and non-traditional family background will bring much needed empathy to the court as it grapples with the growing complex and diverse societal issues facing the bench,” Massachusetts Bar Association president Denise Squillante said in a statement.

A native of Queens, N.Y., Lenk was appointed to the Massachusetts Superior Court by former Gov. William Weld in 1993 and was named to the appeals court in 1995. She had been considered as a candidate for previous vacancies on the high court.

Lenk graduated from Harvard Law School in 1979 and joined the law firm of Brown, Rudnick, Freed and Gesmer, later becoming a partner and specializing in First Amendment issues, according to her biography.

She chaired the Massachusetts Appeals Court Personnel Committee and was a former chair of the board of editors of the Boston Bar Journal. She is also a trustee of Western New England College in Springfield.

All judicial nominations must be approved by the Governor’s Council.

Mass. gov. ‘sick of excuses’ from health insurers

Gov. Deval Patrick says he is sick of hearing “excuses” from health insurance companies for why they can’t lower premiums, but he’s stopping short of directly criticizing not-for-profit insurers that pay their board members.

During his monthly radio appearance on WTKK-FM, the governor was asked last week about the announcements from Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and Tufts Health Plan that they would continue paying the board.

Patrick said he understands why the public feels angry and “victimized” about the issue, but added: “I’m trying to pick my fights.”

The governor said his focus is on lowering the cost of health care for consumers. He would not take a position on legislation that would outlaw board compensation for nonprofits.

Associated Press