Baker withdraws land court nominee

Jennifer Roberts asked to be removed from consideration

Gov. Charlie Baker has withdrawn his controversial pick for a Land Court judgeship, a week after Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito adjourned a meeting before taking up what was likely to be a close vote on the nominee.

Jennifer Roberts, a Cape Cod attorney nominated to the court that handles complicated property cases, requested that Baker remove her from consideration, his administration said.

"The administration continues to believe that Ms. Roberts is a very talented lawyer who is well qualified to serve on the Land Court," Deputy Communications Director Billy Pittman told the News Service. "At the same time, however, we have great respect for the role of the Governor's Council in the judicial selection process, and we respect Ms. Roberts' decision to ask the Governor to withdraw her nomination. The administration looks forward to continuing to work with the Council to appoint outstanding judges to serve in the courts of the Commonwealth."

Last week, members of the Governor's Council, the elected panel that vets judicial nominees, expressed outrage at the way Polito abruptly adjourned the council's meeting, speculating the administration would use the extra time to attempt to secure more votes on the eight-member council or opt instead to withdraw the nomination.

"That was outrageous," Councilor Eileen Duff told the News Service after the meeting adjourned. "They just sealed their fate."

During her nomination interview the previous week, councilors critiqued Roberts for her lack of trial experience, even as a bar advocate, and for planning upcoming appearances at the Supreme Judicial Court and the Superior Court even while a nominee for a judgeship on the Land Court.

Polito responded earlier this week by saying that the vacancy on the Land Court must be filled and praising the work of the Governor's Council to screen judicial nominees.

"Our administration felt that she was a good candidate," Polito said of Roberts. "Relative to Land Court, there's a backlog of cases and it's an opening that needs to be filled, whether it's by this candidate or someone else, there is a process that needs to be considered and the Governor's Council is very much part of that process."

The council is scheduled to meet at noon Wednesday.


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