Gov. Charlie Baker has named yet another jurist to sit on the state's highest court. If Judge Serge Georges and other recent Baker nominees are confirmed, the governor will have chosen all seven justices on the Supreme Judicial Court. Northeastern University Law Professor and GBH News Legal Analyst Daniel Medwed discussed Georges with GBH All Things Considered Host Arun Rath. This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Arun Rath: Tell us what we should know about Judge Georges.
Daniel Medwed: Well, quite a few things, actually. He is a very, very good judge. This is a terrific choice. For one thing, he is considered to be one of the kindest and fairest judges in the whole commonwealth. One of my pals, Margo Lindauer, who teaches with me at Northwestern, does a lot of practice in Dorchester. She told me that he is just the most amazing judge. She even said to me — and as a seasoned lawyer, you don't hear this very often — "he made me believe in justice." And in addition to that, he is incredibly kind. Apparently, he treats everyone with the utmost respect and courtesy, ranging from criminal defendants to prosecutors to support staff. He's always ready to shake a hand, I guess, at least in the pre-COVID days, and always to lend an ear. So he's really a terrific person and a great jurist.
Rath: If Georges and the other pending nominees are confirmed, that would mean that all seven justices on the SJC will be Baker appointees. Is that any cause for concern? Are there any issues about ideological diversity, about the court becoming too similar?
Medwed: In theory, it is a cause for concern whenever one governor — in this case, Charlie Baker — has had a chance to put his stamp on the court in such a dramatic way. I think it's only happened once in our history before. John Hancock had the opportunity to put seven justices on the SJC. But Gov. Baker has done a wonderful job. I've been very tough on him about this, but look at what he's done. This is the most diverse court in terms of racial and ethnic diversity. We have three people of color on a seven-person court. It also has more ideological diversity than one might think, especially with the likely addition of Judge Georges, given his experience in the trenches. It's very rare for a judge to be elevated from the district court level. Right now, Judge Georges sits in Boston Municipal Court. To go from the Boston Municipal Court all the way to the SJC, it means he's bringing a wealth of practical experience. He has been a solo practitioner, he has some criminal defense experience, and I think that perspective will really help the court, because sometimes appellate courts are a little bit like an ivory tower. They're so far removed from the trenches. He'll make sure that the court isn't that distant.
Rath: When there's a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court, it's the Senate that debates and confirms the president's nominee. We saw that just last month. But here in Massachusetts, the state Senate does not handle appointments to the bench. Instead, there's the eight-member Governor's Council. It's an elected advisory panel that goes back to the 17th century, apparently. Is this too baroque of a process? It seems like it's in a limited number of hands.
Medwed: I think that's really interesting. You would hope that the whole Senate, the House, the whole legislature would weigh in on something as groundbreaking and important as a justice of the Supreme Judicial Court appointment. But you're right, it's just the eight-person Governors Council. They are elected, but I frankly, I don't think many people pay much attention to it. It's not like it's the gubernatorial election or something like that. So there is something that feels slightly less, I don't know if the word "democratic" is the right one, but there aren't as many voices being heard in debating whether the person should be appointed. And essentially, the Governor's Council provides a rubber stamp, at least historically, to the governor's nominations, to the SJC. Right now we're debating all of these issues in our government — like the Electoral College at the federal level. It's an interesting issue about the utility of the Governor's Council.