State rep: Nominee's stance on driver's licenses for unauthorized immigrants make her 'unfit' for SJC
BOSTON — Superior Court Judge Kimberly Budd's "ideological statements" have "no place on the Supreme Judicial Court and render her unfit to serve as a justice," according to Rep. Shaunna O'Connell, a Taunton Republican.
Budd is the third of Gov. Charlie Baker's nominees for the high court to appear before the Governor's Council, the eight-member elected body that vets and votes on judicial nominees. The first two, David Lowy and Frank Gaziano, were confirmed unanimously. Councilors last week expressed support for Budd ahead of an expected vote this week.
Opening up during a long interview with the council on Wednesday, Budd said she didn't see "any reason" why unauthorized immigrants should not be granted driver's licenses. A group of Democrats has for years backed legislation granting driver's licenses to people in the country illegally, though it has never gotten very far.
Under questioning by Governor's Councilor Robert Jubinville, Budd also said she thinks there are too many crimes included on the Sex Offender Registry, including people who don't need to be on the listing.
"Not from my professional experience, but just hearing about people who wind up on the registry that don't necessarily need to be there and aren't really sex offenders," Budd said.
While councilors after the hearing said Budd appears to have the votes needed for confirmation, O'Connell wrote Friday on her website that Budd's statements "should put her nomination in jeopardy," while allowing that Budd is qualified.
O'Connell's post advocated for Budd's nomination to be withdrawn and included the contact information of the eight councilors who are set to vote Wednesday.
Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito's administration stood by Budd, and noted that at the suggestion of the governor, lawmakers tightened legislation governing the Registry of Motor Vehicles to exclude unauthorized immigrants from obtaining state driver's licenses.
"Judge Kimberly Budd has stated she will enforce the law as written and thanks to the Baker-Polito Administration's successful and bipartisan push to bar undocumented immigrants from obtaining licenses, only applicants showing proof of lawful presence are eligible for licenses," said Baker spokesman Billy Pitman in a statement. "The governor does not conduct litmus tests for judicial nominees and was pleased to nominate in Judge Budd a highly qualified jurist who has proven she is ready to apply the law equitably and not legislate from the bench."
O'Connell focused her criticism on Budd's statements about the Sex Offender Registry, which tracks offenders and releases to the public information about those deemed most dangerous.
"If you are on the Sex Offender Registry, you have committed a sex crime, and the public has a right to know what dangerous sex offenders live and work in their communities," O'Connell wrote. She said, "There have been consistent attempts to weaken the registry. It is imperative that we have justices that will defend and protect the registry."
A Supreme Judicial Court ruling last year required the Sex Offender Registry Board to review many of its classifications using a tougher standard of evidence and removed some people from the registry.
The daughter of a former U.S. Attorney and a former federal prosecutor herself, Budd is an African American woman and if she joins the Supreme Judicial Court, she would bring the seven-judge panel to an unprecedented two African American women justices.
Budd told the council her background would give her a "different perspective on the world" if she was confirmed to the court, which has the final say on matters of state law.
Governor's Councilor Jennie Caissie, the council's only Republican, told the News Service she was satisfied by Budd's answers despite her apparent liberal leaning on driver's licenses.
"It wasn't, 'I want to be a progressive and change the legal framework.' It's that, 'I want to be known as somebody who knew what they were talking about and advanced the law,'" Caissie said after the hearing, summing up what Budd said she hoped her legacy would be.
During her interview, Budd appeared more forthcoming in her answers than other judges and lawyers who appear before the council for an often-lengthy public vetting. Budd praised the U.S. Supreme Court for overturning the corruption conviction of the former governor of Virginia and agreed that the Supreme Judicial Court had erred in upholding a ban on the possession of stun guns — a decision that was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.
O'Connell's objection to Budd pits a Republican lawmaker against the Republican governor's nominee. Not a member of Republican leadership in the House, O'Connell has been active in human services debates, calling for more stringent checks on welfare programs.
In her post, O'Connell took issue with Budd's openness to the idea of unauthorized immigrants legally driving cars.
"This is in direct conflict with the law. In light of her disturbing biased comments, her nomination should be withdrawn," O'Connell wrote.
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