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Judge Ralph Gants: SJC’s Gain Will Be BLS’s Loss

Today’s Boston Globe reports that Governor Deval Patrick will nominate Superior Court Judge Ralph Gants to the seat on the Supreme Judicial Court now vacated by Justice John Greaney. This is a great nomination – Judge Gants is truly a superstar of the Massachusetts Superior Court – without question one of the best, if not the best, minds on the state trial court. He has reportedly been on the “short list” of potential nominees for the last few weeks, and there was little question in my mind that he was the outstanding choice on that list. I expect his nomination to the SJC to be approved by the legislature in a heart beat.

Judge Judith Fabricant has been the number 2 judge in this session (the BLS2 session) since Judge Van Gestel’s retirement, but it’s unclear if she will provide what has become a tradition of leadership and excellence in the relatively short period of time since the BLS was created, or even whether she is interested in taking on the responsibility of leading the BLS. Being the “BLS1 Judge” is a significant commitment, and not every judge is well suited to this responsibility. Most of Judge Fabricant’s experience (before her appointment to the Superior Court in 1996) was as a criminal prosecutor and then an assistant attorney general. Whether she feels that she has the depth of experience appropriate to head the BLS remains to be seen.

It’s also worth observing that the Business Litigation Session is not a “statutory” court – it was formed in 2000 as a pilot project, and exists at the discretion of the Chief Justice of the Superior Court. Without a strong and committed leader (as Judge Van Gestel was), and as Judge Gants was beginning to prove himself to be), the future of the BLS is not certain.

So, the BLS’s loss of Judge Gants leaves the BLS in limbo – will Judge Fabricanttake over BLS1? If so, will she provide the level of quality provided by Allen Van Gestel and Ralph Gants? Who will become the new “number two” at the BLS?

Finally, it’s worth observing that the BLS appears to have emerged as a “feeder court” for the SJC – first Justice Margot Botsford (who was the BLS2 Judge before Gants), and now Judge Gants have gone from the BLS to the SJC. Whether this is coincidence (or whether the BLS attracts the best judges on the Superior Court) is open to debate, but the phenomenon is worth noting.