Healey nominates ex-romantic partner and appellate justice Gabrielle Wolohojian to SJC seat

BOSTON — In a move that is drawing criticism from some, Gov. Maura Healey on Wednesday nominated her former romantic partner and Massachusetts Appeals Court Associate Justice Gabrielle Wolohojian to serve as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court.

Wolohojian and Healey, who are former longtime partners, first met while both were working at Hale & Dorr, according to a 2015 Boston Magazine article.

Wolohojian is nominated to fill the seat vacated by Justice David Lowy, who has retired this month from the Supreme Judicial Court.

The nomination drew criticism from MassGOP Chairwoman Amy Carnevale.

“It is highly inappropriate for the Governor to nominate to Massachusetts’ highest court an individual with whom she had a long-term romantic relationship in the past,” Carnevale said in a statement on Wednesday. “This nomination clearly demonstrates a lack of accountability inherent in one-party rule. We urge the Governor to immediately withdraw her nominee and, if not withdrawn, we urge the Governor’s Council to reject this nominee.”

When questioned by reporters about the nomination on Wednesday, Healey said there is “no one more qualified or more well-prepared to join the SJC” than Wolohojian.

“As you can imagine and as, a former lawyer, one of the greatest responsibilities I have is to name judges and in particular justices to the Supreme Judicial Court. It’s a responsibility that not only is constitutional, it is one that I take very seriously,” Healey said. “There is no one more qualified or more well-prepared to join the SJC than Justice Wolohojian. And I’m proud of that nomination. And I’m proud, of, nominating somebody who is so deserving and so qualified. It is what the Commonwealth deserves.”

The governor, who spoke after testifying before the Joint Committee on Ways and Means during a Fiscal Year 2025 budget hearing, also commented about her previous relationship with the appellate justice.

“The way this comes forward actually is through a judicial nominating committee process, where there’s a review of applications. And it was the unanimous recommendation to me that I name and, that I nominate Justice Wolohojian based on her impeccable credentials and her qualifications. And so I took that recommendation very seriously,” Healey said.

“Of course, I had a personal relationship with Judge Wolohojian for many years, so I happened to also know something about her character and integrity and the kind of person she is,” Healey said. “Also, it’s, you know, you’ve seen that not just from me, somebody who had a personal relationship with her, but also so many people who have worked with her, who have known her, who have come forward. The support for her has been overwhelming from the legal community and beyond. And I think that speaks to the, incredible qualifications she brings to this position. And and what she will do.”

When asked by reporters if there was anyone else more qualified for the nomination, Healey said, “No, no, and not according to to the committee. And I think if you. You, follow some of the commentary and see who’s stepping forward? The reaction has been one of overwhelming support. There is no one more qualified. I am very comfortable in saying that. If you look at her, record, and you look at her career as a lawyer and then as a judge these past 16 years on the appeals court, there’s no more no one more qualified or more prepared. And, you know, I don’t want the fact that she had a personal relationship with me to deprive the Commonwealth of a person who’s most qualified for the position.”

When asked whether their prior personal relationship may interfere with the nomination going the distance, Healey said, “No, I don’t think so. Because from here on out, there’s a process. Of course. I’m a part of it. Excuse me, but what we move to next, of course, is, is consideration by the governor’s council. And that process will unfold in the next few weeks.”

Wolohojian is Healey’s second nomination to the state’s highest court, which consists of a Chief Justice and six Associate Justices. The seven Justices hear appeals on a broad range of criminal and civil cases from September through May and issue written opinions that are posted online.

“There is no one more qualified or better prepared to serve on the Supreme Judicial Court than Justice Wolohojian. She will bring over three decades of broad trial and appellate experience, including sixteen years on the Appeals Court,” Healey said earlier Wednesday in a statement, which had made no mention of her prior relationship with Wolohojian.

“Justice Wolohojian has served on the Appeals Court with distinction and her work is widely respected by members of the bench and bar,” Healey said. “She has an exceptional understanding of the law and a strong commitment to the administration of justice. I thank the Supreme Judicial Nominating Commission for their work throughout this process and I am grateful to the Governor’s Council for their careful consideration of her nomination.”

Wolohojian was appointed to the Appeals Court by then-Gov. Deval Patrick in February 2008, according to her judicial biography on the state’s website. Since her appointment, she has sat on over 2,700 appeals and authored over 900 decisions, according to Healey.

Wolohojian serves as the Chair of the Supreme Judicial Court’s Advisory Committees on the Rules of Appellate Procedure, and the Chair of the Appeals Court’s Committees on Judicial Mentoring and Training, Education, Policies and Practices, and En Banc Rehearings. Wolohojian is a regular speaker on appellate practice, state officials said.

Born in New York and the granddaughter of Armenian immigrants, Wolohojian received a bachelor’s degree, magna cum laude, from Rutgers University in 1982; a Ph.D. in English language and literature from the University of Oxford in 1987; and a J.D. from Columbia Law School in 1989, where she was an editor of the Columbia Law Review, according to her judicial biography.

After graduating from law school, she served as a law clerk, first to Judge Rya Zobel of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, then to Judge Bailey Aldrich of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

In 1991, Wolohojian joined the Boston law firm of Hale and Dorr, now known as WilmerHale, where she became a partner in the firm’s litigation department, according to her judicial biography. Her practice focused on complex commercial litigation in State and Federal courts, including product liability cases, consumer class actions, false advertising claims, and other business and consumer transactions. In 1994, Wolohojian left the firm to serve as an associate independent counsel on the Whitewater investigation, returning to her practice 16 months later.

Wolohojian is also a violinist and a longtime performing member of the Boston Civic Symphony Orchestra according to her judicial biography and Healey’s statement. She also previously served as President of the Board of Directors of the Boston Civic Symphony Orchestra.

Since 2005, Wolohojian has served as an overseer of From the Top, a nationally-distributed radio program focusing on young children playing classical music.

Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll in a statement echoed Healey’s comments.

“Justice Wolohojian cares deeply about improving the work of our courts and ensuring that the judiciary serves the public as best it can,” Driscoll said. “From chairing the Supreme Judicial Court’s Standing Advisory Committee on the Rules of Appellate Procedure, to overseeing the training and mentoring of all new judges on the Appeals Court, Justice Wolohojian has shown an unwavering dedication to improving the functioning of our courts. Governor Healey and I look forward to the Governor’s Council’s consideration of Justice Wolohojian, who, if confirmed, will be a critically important addition to the Supreme Judicial Court.”

Geraldine Hines, a retired Associate Justice of the state Supreme Judicial Court, also praised Wolohojian’s qualifications for the job.

“Justice Wolohojian is uniquely qualified to join the Supreme Judicial Court at a time when it enjoys and is committed to maintaining its reputation as one of the most respected state supreme courts in the country,” Hines said in a statement.

“This is a difficult job that demands intellectual vigor, respect for the rule of law, an unwavering commitment to equal justice under the law, and an impeccable work ethic. From our time together on the Appeals Court and from my conversations with colleagues who have continued to serve on the court, I can say that Justice Wolohojian is richly blessed with these qualifications, as exemplified in her record of achievement as a lawyer and jurist,” Hines said. “She has also mastered the under-appreciated but important skill so critical to appellate judging: the ability to accept and coax consensus from the inevitable debates that arise when seven justices with diverse background, life experiences and judicial philosophies are called upon to decide the difficult and complex issues of law presented to the court.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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