What to Know
- This is the second in NBC10 Boston's "She Thrives" series, focusing on the achievements of black women in Boston during Black History Month.
- Kimberly Budd has sat on the Mass. Supreme Judicial Court bench since 2016, and is the third African American to be on the bench.
- She has faced obstacles over her course of her career in law, and says she feels the gravity of lending her voice in decisions.
For Supreme Judicial Court Associate Justice Kimberly Budd, law enforcement hasn't just been a career path for her — it's part of her DNA.
She said expectations for her as a child were always highs, especially from her doting father.
"He would say to me, 'Now you know I went a little bit farther than my dad did, and I expect you to go a little bit farther than I go,'" she said with a smile. "I was like, 'What are you talking about?' I was like, 'Oh really?'"
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Her grandfather Joseph Budd was the first African American police officer in Springfield, Massachusetts, and her father, Wayne Budd, is a former U.S. attorney.
In 2016, she claimed her own piece of history as she was sworn in as the third African American to ever serve as a justice on the state's highest court.
Budd said the momentous experience of taking her oath of office was "amazing."
"It was really great to be in Faneuil Hall, a place where there were slave auctions, and to be up there with retired Chief Justice Roderick Ireland and retired Associate Justice Gerald Hines, who spoke for me, the first two African Americans on the SJC," she recalled.
However, her path that led to a seat on the Supreme Judicial Court has not been easy.
"I've been underestimated in the courtroom," Budd recalled. "I have been mistaken for a defendants girlfriend when I was first practicing."
Budd's grit in the courtroom can be traced to her overcoming the grind of Harvard Law School, but bright spots in that journey include her classmates, like Michelle and Barack Obama.
"So did I know he was going to become president? No, but I did know he was something special," she quipped.
Back in the state's highest court, Budd says it's also special how she and her fellow justices work together to decide cases.
"They're great," she said. "We don't always agree, but when we don't agree, it's not personal -- it's collegial."
Budd said she feels the gravity of lending her voice to dilemmas such as inequalities in the law regarding race, especially as a mother of two African American sons.
"It makes me nervous about when they go out," she said, adding that she wondered whether they will be "treated well."
"I think, little by little, I hope we are making progress," Budd said. "I feel good about being where I am and hoping to make a difference where I can."