BOSTON (AP) - Paula Carey, head of the probate court division, was named Monday to lead the state's trial court at a time when the judicial system in Massachusetts continues to reel from the effects of a drug testing scandal involving a former state chemist.
Carey, 55, was appointed to the five-year term by the justices of the Supreme Judicial Court and will succeed Robert Mulligan as chief justice of the state's trial court. Mulligan is retiring in July after 10 years in the post and 33 years as a judge.
The SJC called Carey a "proven leader" who was chosen from among four finalists for the post.
"We are confident that her energy, skills and passion for excellence in the courts are an outstanding match for this important leadership position," said Roderick Ireland, chief justice of the SJC, in a statement.
A recent change in state law split off judicial and administrative oversight in the trial court. The former post of chief justice for Administration and Management for the courts was eliminated and replaced by two positions, a chief justice for the trial court and a court administrator.
The chief justice oversees policy and judicial responsibilities for the trial court, which includes 280 judges and more than 6000 employees in 100 courts around Massachusetts.
The judicial system has been dealing in recent months with the turmoil that followed allegations that Annie Dookhan, a former chemist at a state drug testing lab in Boston, faked test results and tampered with evidence.
Dookhan has pleaded not guilty to perjury, obstruction of justice and other charges.
The scandal has thrown into question thousands of drug convictions and pending cases in which Dookhan was involved in testing.
Carey, a native of Burlington and graduate of New England School of Law, was first named to the bench by then-Gov. Paul Cellucci in 2001 and was promoted to chief justice of the probate and family court in 2007.
Martin Healy, chief operating officer of the Massachusetts Bar Association, praised the appointment of Carey as head of the trial court, calling her a "hard working, innovative justice."