Noting the "bittersweet" circumstances of her nomination to lead the state's top court, Supreme Judicial Court Justice Kimberly Budd said Wednesday that she hopes to emulate late Chief Justice Ralph Gants's respect and collegiality if she is confirmed.

Budd earned the nomination of Gov. Charlie Baker to ascend from associate justice to chief justice, a role that has been vacant since Gants died in September.

"We're in the middle of a pandemic," Budd told reporters at a press conference where Baker unveiled her nomination. "People in the commonwealth are in a panic. People are hurting, and we have to make sure that the judiciary is running as well as it can, and that's what I'm focused on now."

If confirmed for the new position by the Governor's Council, she will become the first Black female chief justice in the SJC's history, which Budd said is "a little overwhelming" and "very meaningful."

Baker would have two more seats on the panel to fill if Budd is confirmed: her associate justice seat and one that Justice Barbara Lenk will vacate when she retires on Dec. 1.

The governor said Wednesday that "the goal" is to complete that process by the end of the year.