Ordering the Courts: Right Wing Attacks on Judicial Independence in 2000


In June of 2000, anti-abortion protestors attacked the nomination of Superior Court Judge Martha Sosman to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court by then-Governor Paul Cellucci. From 1986 to 1992, Sosman served on the board of directors for the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, but stepped down when she was appointed to the bench. Anti-abortion activists protested outside the State House during hearings on Sosman’s confirmation. Maryclare Flynn, executive director of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, vowed to lobby the nine members of the council to vote against her nomination.

Massachusetts Citizens for Life had also targeted Associate Justice Margaret Marshall’s nomination to Chief Justice in 1999, claiming that her membership on the board of trustees of Crittenton Hastings House, a home for unwed mothers that also provided abortions, rendered her incapable of impartiality in potential abortion decisions. Cardinal Bernard Law also objected to both Marshall’s nomination and the elevation of Superior Court Judge Judith Cowin, charging the two with “anti-Catholicism,” though he later withdrew the charge. Nonetheless, both Marshall and Cowin were approved. For her part, Sosman promised to recuse herself from any case involving Planned Parenthood and her nomination was approved by a 7-1 vote on July 26, 2000.

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