Ex-romantic partner of Massachusetts governor says she’s ready to serve on state’s high court

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BOSTON (AP) — Appeals Court Associate Justice Gabrielle R. Wolohojian, a former romantic partner of Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey, testified Wednesday before the Governor’s Council on her nomination to the state’s highest court.

Healey has said her past relationship with Wolohojian shouldn’t deny the state the benefit of having her serve on the state Supreme Judicial Court. The panel didn’t vote on the nomination Wednesday.

Healey defended her decision to nominate Wolohojian, describing her as a remarkable jurist who has displayed “kindness, patience, empathy, humility and an abiding sense of justice” to those who have come before her in court.

“I know that personally,” Healey said. “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.”

Wolohojian said she went through virtually the same process with the Healey administration that she did when she sought a nomination to the SJC under former Republican Gov. Charlie Baker.

“I understand your concern about the optics, but sitting from my chair I have done everything like every other candidate, and I don’t know what else I can do other than do the process that’s been really in place since the Dukakis administration,” she told the council.

Healey has also said she doesn’t think Wolohojian would have to recuse herself from cases involving the administration despite their personal history.

Wolohojian said the decision by judges to recuse themselves is taken on a case-by-case basis.

“Recusal is something that I take very seriously. It’s a two-sided question. There are cases in which you need to recuse yourself and you do so and then there are cases where you don’t recuse yourself,” she said.

“I have absolutely no interest and never have in sitting on cases I shouldn’t sit on or not sitting on cases I should sit on,” she added.

Wolohojian is the second nomination to the state’s highest court by Healey, the first woman and first open member of the LGBTQ+ community to be elected governor of Massachusetts.

Amy Carnevale, chair of the Massachusetts Republican Party, faulted Healey for relying on “a select group of rubber stamp advisors” in making the decision.

“Regardless of whether the judge opts to recuse herself from issues involving the governor or the executive branch, the impropriety of this nomination remains unchanged,” Carnevale said in a statement. “It’s difficult to conceive that the personal relationship didn’t impact the nomination process.”

Wolohojian, 63, would fill the seat vacated by Justice David Lowy. Last year Healey nominated then-state solicitor Elizabeth Dewar to the high court.

Wolohojian was appointed to the Appeals Court in February 2008 and has authored more than 900 decisions.

Healey and Wolohojian, who met when they both worked at the Boston law firm of Hale & Dorr, had been together for eight years when Healey began her first term as attorney general in 2015, according to a Boston Magazine profile.

Wolohojian and Healey lived together in a rowhouse in the Charlestown neighborhood of Boston that also served as a campaign headquarters for Healey. The governor now lives with her current partner, Joanna Lydgate, in Arlington.

The Supreme Judicial Court is Massachusetts’s highest appellate court. The seven justices hear appeals on a range of criminal and civil cases.

Born in New York, and the granddaughter of Armenian immigrants, Justice Wolohojian received a bachelor’s degree, magna cum laude, from Rutgers University in 1982; a doctorate in English language and literature from the University of Oxford in 1987; and a Juris Doctor from Columbia Law School in 1989.

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