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Stories about Massachusetts

Chief justice confirmed to Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

Image of the John Adams Courthouse in Massachusetts

On November 18, 2020, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Justice Kimberly Budd was confirmed as the chief justice of the court. Budd was nominated to the position by Gov. Charlie Baker (R) on October 28, 2020. She succeeded former Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants, who passed away on September 14, 2020. Budd may serve as the chief justice of the court until she reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70.

Budd was first nominated to the supreme court by Gov. Baker on June 14, 2016, and confirmed by the Governor’s Council on August 10, 2016. She succeeded Justice Fernande Duffly after Duffly’s July 2016 retirement.

Budd was previously a superior court associate justice in Massachusetts. She was nominated to the superior court by Gov. Deval Patrick (D) in July 2009 and assumed office in September 2009.

In 2020, there have been 22 supreme court vacancies in 16 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. One vacancy occurred when a chief justice died, and 21 vacancies were caused by retirements.

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Massachusetts ballot measure campaigns raised over $61.6 million this election cycle

Support and opposition campaigns for Massachusetts’ two November statewide ballot measures reported raising a total of $61.6 million according to the latest campaign finance reports filed November 20. 

The Right to Repair Coalition, the sponsor of Question 1, reported $24.9 million in contributions. Question 1 was approved. It amended the 2013 “right to repair law” to require manufacturers that sell vehicles with telematics systems in Massachusetts to equip them with a standardized system beginning with model year 2022 that vehicle owners and independent repair facilities may access to retrieve mechanical data and run diagnostics through a mobile-based application. The top donors to the campaign included:

  • Auto Care Association ($4.6 million)
  • Coalition of Automotive Repair Equality ($4.2 million)
  • AutoZone ($3 million)
  • O’Reilly Auto Parts ($3 million)
  • Advance Auto Parts ($3 million)
  • Genuine Parts Company ($3 million)

The Coalition for Safe and Secure Data registered in opposition to Question 1 and reported $26.5 million in contributions. The top donors to the campaign included:

  • General Motors ($5.5 million)
  • Toyota Motor North America, Inc ($4.5 million)
  • Ford Motor Company ($4.5 million)
  • American Honda Motor Co., Inc ($3.0 million)
  • Nissan North America Inc. ($2.4 million)

The Ranked Choice Voting 2020 Committee sponsored Question 2, the ranked-choice voting initiative, which was defeated 54.8% to 45.2%. The committee reported $10.2 million in contributions. The top donors to the committee were the Action Now Initiative ($3.7 million), Kathryn Murdoch ($2.5 million), and Michael Porter ($450,000). 

No Ranked Choice Voting registered in opposition to Question 2, which was also opposed by Massachusetts Governor Charles Baker (R). The committee reported $8,475 in contributions. 

Committees registered to support or oppose all of the 129 2020 statewide measures have reported a combined total of $1.19 billion in contributions and $994.1 million in expenditures. Massachusetts ballot measure campaigns raised the third largest amount in contributions compared to other states. California campaigns raised the most with $739 million, and Illinois campaigns raised the second most with $121.2 million.

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Massachusetts voters approve wireless vehicle data access measure, reject ranked-choice voting

Massachusetts voters approved Question 1, the measure requiring wireless vehicle data access to owners and independent auto repair shops related to the state’s “right to repair law.” It was approved 75% to 25% according to unofficial election night results. Voters defeated Question 2 55% to 45% with 82 percent of precincts reporting. Question 2 would have made Massachusetts the second state after Maine to use ranked choice voting for state elections. The Yes on 2 campaign conceded the race.

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Massachusetts governor nominates Budd to be chief justice of state supreme court

Image of the John Adams Courthouse in Massachusetts

On October 28, 2020, Gov. Charlie Baker (R) announced the nomination of Associate Justice Kimberly S. Budd as the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s chief justice. If confirmed, Budd would replace Ralph D. Gants, who died on September 14, 2020. Budd would also be the first Black woman to serve as chief justice in the court’s history. 

The chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is appointed by the governor with council approval, serving until they reach 70 years old, the age of mandatory retirement. If confirmed, Budd would reach the mandatory retirement age in October 2036. 

Budd joined the court as an associate justice in 2016. She was nominated to the court by Gov. Baker and confirmed by the Governor’s Council. Budd was an associate justice for the Superior Court in Massachusetts from 2009 to 2016. 

Budd earned an undergraduate degree from Georgetown University in 1988. She earned a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1991. 

There are currently two vacancies on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. The second vacancy will be triggered by the upcoming retirement of Associate Justice Barbara Lenk, who will reach the mandatory retirement age in December 2020.

In 2020, there have been 22 supreme court vacancies in 16 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. One vacancy occurred when a chief justice died, and 21 vacancies were caused by retirements.

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Support and opposition committees for Massachusetts Question 1 (“Right to Repair Law” initiative) reported $34.8 million in combined contributions

Updated on Sept. 19, 2020

Massachusetts voters will decide Question 1 on Nov. 3. The initiative would require manufacturers that sell vehicles with telematics systems in Massachusetts to equip them with a standardized open data platform beginning with model year 2022. The platform would need to allow vehicle owners and independent repair facilities may access to retrieve mechanical data and run diagnostics through a mobile-based application.

The Right to Repair Coalition, the sponsors of Massachusetts Question 1, reported receiving over $9.2 million in its August report. The committee reported spending $6.7 million. The largest contributors to the support committee were the Coalition of Automotive Repair Equality ($3.1 million) and the Auto Care Association ($2.6 million).

The top-five largest contributors to the support committee were 

  • the Coalition of Automotive Repair Equality ($3.1 million)
  • the Auto Care Association ($2.6 million), 
  • Advance Auto Parts ($1 million),
  • Auto Zone ($1 million), and
  • O’Reilly Auto Parts ($1 million).

The Coalition for Safe and Secure Data, the committee registered in opposition to Massachusetts Question 1, reported receiving $25.6 million in contributions in its latest campaign finance report filed September 4. The committee had spent over $6.8 million. Fifteen automobile manufacturers and two automotive trade organizations contributed to the committee. The following were the top five contributors to the committee:

  • General Motors ($5.5 million)
  • Toyota Motor North America, Inc ($4.5 million)
  • Ford Motor Company ($4.5 million)
  • American Honda Motor Co., Inc ($3.0 million)
  • Nissan North America, Inc. ($2.4 million)

The next campaign finance reports are due Sept. 21.

The first “right to repair law” was approved by the Massachusetts General Assembly and signed into law on Nov. 26, 2013. The 2013 law reconciled the differences between Question 1 (2012), which was approved by 87.7% of voters, and the alternative version resulting from a legislative compromise approved on July 31, 2012. Since the legislative compromise was passed after the July 3 signature deadline, the 2012 initiative could not be removed from the ballot after qualifying.

The 2013 “right to repair law” exempts telematics systems from wireless accessibility by vehicle owners and independent repair facilities. Under Question 1 (2020), Telematics systems would be accessible through a mobile device application and could be used by independent repair facilities to access data and send commands to the system for repair, maintenance, and diagnostic testing.

According to the Right to Repair Coalition, the group proposed the 2020 initiative to update the previous law. Barry Steinberg, the owner of Direct Tire in Watertown and a member of the Right to Repair Coalition, said, “Massachusetts voters voted 86% in 2012 to require car companies to give access to repair information and diagnostics. But now big auto is using the next generation of wireless technology to get around our law, shut out independent repair shops, and cost car owners more money. That’s not what we voted for.”

The Coalition for Safe and Secure Data argued the measure would dangerously expand access to car data. Conor Yunits, the spokesman for the Coalition for Safe and Secure Data, said, “This ballot question will create easy opportunities for strangers, hackers and criminals to access consumer vehicles and personal driving data–including real-time location. It will put people at risk, without doing anything to improve the consumer experience.”

Massachusetts is the only state that has adopted a “right to repair law.” During the 2019-2020 legislative session, none of the 17 states that introduced a “right to repair law” had approved it.

Massachusetts voters will also be deciding on an initiative that would enact ranked-choice voting for primary and general elections for state executive officials, state legislators, congressional and senate seats, and certain county offices beginning in 2022.

So far, Ballotpedia has tracked a total of $572.4 million in contributions to and $228.1 million in expenditures by campaigns supporting or opposing the 123 2020 statewide measures. The following five states have the most ballot measure campaign finance activity reported so far:
California – $316.8 million in contributions
Illinois – $80.4 million in contributions
Massachusetts – $38.8 million in contributions
Florida – $28.4 million in contributions
Colorado – $23.4 million in contributions

A previous version of this article stated that the support committee, the Massachusetts Right to Repair Coalition, had received $5.7 million in contributions and did not list Advance Auto Parts, Auto Zone, or O’Reilly Auto Parts as top donors. That version was based on original campaign finance report filings. Those reports were subsequently amended by the committee to include, among other contributions and expenditures, contributions of $1 million each from Advance Auto Parts, Auto Zone, or O’Reilly Auto Parts. This article was adjusted on Sept. 19 to account for the campaign finance report amendments.

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Death of Massachusetts chief justice creates second vacancy on state supreme court

Image of the John Adams Courthouse in Massachusetts

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants died while in office on September 14, 2020, causing a second vacancy in the state’s court of last resort. The other vacancy will occur on December 1, 2020, when Supreme Judicial Court Justice Barbara Lenk is scheduled to retire from the court, one day prior to reaching the court’s mandatory retirement age of 70 years old.

Chief Justice Gants was appointed to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court by Governor Deval Patrick (D) in 2008 to replace retired Justice John Greaney. Gants assumed office on January 29, 2009. On April 17, 2014, Justice Gants was nominated by Gov. Patrick to serve as the chief justice of the court, effective following Chief Justice Roderick Ireland’s retirement on July 25, 2014. Gants’ term was scheduled to expire in 2024.

Chief Justice Gants earned a bachelor’s degree from Harvard College in 1976. He earned a diploma in criminology at Cambridge University in England. He earned a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1980. Gants served as a note editor with the Harvard Law Review.

The seven justices of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court are appointed by the governor and approved by the governor’s council. The Governor’s Council, also referred to as the Executive Council, is a governmental body that is constitutionally authorized to approve judicial appointments. The council consists of eight members who are elected every two years from each of the eight council districts. Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court justices hold tenured appointments until they reach 70 years old, the age of mandatory retirement.

Founded in 1692, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is the state’s court of last resort and has seven judgeships. The court is the oldest continuously functioning appellate court in the Western Hemisphere. Originally called the Superior Court of Judicature, it was established in 1692. The court was renamed the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court by the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780.

Following Gants’ death, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court included the following members:
• Barbara Lenk – Appointed by Gov. Deval Patrick (D) in 2011
• Frank M. Gaziano – Appointed by Gov. Charlie Baker (R) in 2016
• David A. Lowy – Appointed by Gov. Baker (R) in 2016
• Kimberly S. Budd – Appointed by Gov. Baker (R) in 2016
• Elspeth Cypher – Appointed by Gov. Baker (R) in 2017

• Scott Kafker – Appointed by Gov. Baker (R) in 2017

In 2020, there have been 21 supreme court vacancies in 16 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. One vacancy occurred when a chief justice died, and 20 vacancies were caused by retirements. Twelve vacancies are in states where a Democratic governor appoints the replacement. Eight are in states where a Republican governor appoints the replacement. One vacancy is in a state where the state supreme court votes to appoint the replacement.

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Voters decide state legislative primaries in Massachusetts

Massachusetts held its statewide primary on September 1, 2020. There were 200 state legislative seats on the ballot, 40 in the state Senate and 160 in the state House. Candidates competed to advance to the general election on November 3, 2020.

As of September 3, several races were still too close to call. In the state House, 145 incumbents filed for re-election, and all 40 incumbents in the state Senate filed for re-election. At least two incumbents were defeated in the primary across the two chambers. In the 17th Middlesex District of the state House, Vanna Howard defeated incumbent David Nangle and Lisa Arnold in the Democratic primary. In the state Senate’s Hampden District, Adam Gomez defeated incumbent James Welch in the Democratic primary. Neither Howard nor Gomez face Republican opposition in the general election.

Massachusetts has a divided government in which no political party holds a state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when a political party holds both the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers. Although Democrats hold a majority in both chambers, Massachusetts elected Republican Gov. Charlie Baker in 2014.

The next two primaries in the 2020 election cycle are on September 8 in New Hampshire and Rhode Island.

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Recall fails against select board member in Reading, Massachusetts

On September 1, a recall election was held for Reading Select Board Member Vanessa Alvarado in Massachusetts. Unofficial results showed that the recall election was unsuccessful, with 5,641 votes against the recall to 3,831 votes in favor of the recall. Results will become official after they are certified by town officials.

The recall effort against Alvarado began in February 2020 and was based on allegations that Alvarado impeded the hiring of a new police chief in her role as board chair. Alvarado denied the allegations, arguing that she was trying to provide open, public discussion about the police chief’s appointment and did nothing to violate the town charter.

Petitioners were required to obtain 2,000 signatures from Reading’s registered voters in order to put the recall on the ballot. In March 2020, Reading’s board of registrars certified 2,239 signatures.

Because the recall election was unsuccessful, Alvarado will retain her position on the Reading Select Board. She is serving the final year of her three-year term and is eligible to run for re-election in April 2021.

In 2019, Ballotpedia covered a total of 151 recall efforts against 230 elected officials. Of the 66 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 34 were recalled for a rate of 52%. That was lower than the 63% rate and 57% rate for 2018 and 2017 recalls, respectively.

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Incumbent Neal wins Democratic nomination in Massachusetts’ 1st Congressional District

Image of several stickers with the words "I voted"

Incumbent U.S. Rep. Richard Neal defeated Alex Morse in the Democratic primary in Massachusetts’ 1st Congressional District. With 87% of precincts reporting, Neal received 59.1% of the vote to Morse’s 40.9%.

Neal was first elected in 1988 and has served as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee since 2019. He cited addressing coronavirus and its impact on the economy as key issues in the race. Morse is the mayor of Holyoke. He was first elected in 2012. In a Candidate Connection survey he submitted to Ballotpedia, he said, “For too long, our government has worked for the rich and the well-connected, and not so well for everyday people.”

Neal received endorsements from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the late Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), and the American Federation of Teachers during the primary.

No Republicans are running for the seat, meaning Neal will face independent Frederick Mayock in the general election. Neal previously faced Mayock in 2016, receiving 73% of the vote to Mayock’s 18%.



Markey defeats Kennedy in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts

Incumbent U.S. Sen. Ed Markey defeated U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts. With 82% of the precincts reporting, Markey had received 55.6% of the vote to Kennedy’s 44.5%.

Markey served in the U.S. House from 1976 until he was elected to the Senate in a 2013 special election after John Kerry was confirmed as Secretary of State. Markey went on to win a full term in 2014. Throughout the campaign, he highlighted his legislative record such as his co-sponsorship of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) Medicare for All bill and co-authorship of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-N.Y.) Green New Deal.

Markey received endorsements from Ocasio-Cortez, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and the Working Families Party.

Markey will face Kevin O’Connor (R) in the general election. Markey was most recently re-elected in 2014 with 59% of the vote. The most recent time Massachusetts elected a Republican to the U.S. Senate was 2010 when Scott Brown (R) won a special election with 52% of the vote.