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Massachusetts Progressive Politics and other news of the world

 

Romney vs. the Governor's Council


There is a mini-showdown between Romney and the Governor's council brewing. Normally, Romney uses the Judicial Nominating Committee as a shield against the politics of nominating judges where he has to go through an 8-1 Dem over GOP Governor's Council (the "one" being the Lt. Gov). This story got some play last week (originally from the Globe):
Governor Mitt Romney, who touts his conservative credentials to out-of-state Republicans, has passed over GOP lawyers for three-quarters of the 36 judicial vacancies he has faced, instead tapping registered Democrats or independents including two gay lawyers who have supported expanded same-sex rights, a Globe review of the nominations has found
From what I can see, the judge and clerk magistrate numbers are conflated, but there is a big difference between naming a democrat as a judge or as a clerk magistrate, since clerk magistrates do not rule on cases. I'd like to see the breakdown.

In any case, Romney cannot just name GOP idealogues to the bench with the Governor's Council so tilted against him, but to stave off GOP pressure, he wisely issued an executive order to require approval from a Judicial Nominating Committee. There is some other good background in the Globe article:
Romney won praise in the legal community when he replaced regional judicial nominating committees that were viewed as politically tainted with a centralized Judicial Nominating Commission. The commission considers applicants using a ''blind" first phase of the selection process that removes names from applications in an attempt to ensure the candidates will be judged on their merits. In addition, all of Romney's nominees have been submitted to a Joint Bar Committee on Judicial Nominations, which rates candidates as qualified, well-qualified, or unqualified -- and each has been found to be either qualified or well-qualified.
but,
Peter Vickery, one of the Democrats on the Governor's Council, says he believes Romney and Moore would seek far more conservative jurists if a vacancy were to pop up on the Supreme Judicial Court, which delivered the gay marriage decision that Romney has routinely blasted.
Which brings us to this:
Governor's Councilor Peter Vickery is calling for the governor to withdraw his pick for a judge in Hampden Juvenile Court in Springfield, saying the nominee lacks the proper demeanor.

[...]Vickery, an Amherst Democrat, said he expressed his opposition to Rigali to Mark D. Nielsen, the governor's chief legal counsel. Vickery said he will vote against confirming Rigali as a judge.

Vickery criticized the way Rigali handled himself during his interview before the Governor's Council, saying Rigali was too harsh in responding to Willie M. Johnson, 68, of Springfield.

[...]Vickery also said Rigali didn't apply to become a judge at Hampden Juvenile Court. The Judicial Nominating Commission, a group that interviews candidates and makes recommendations to the governor, did not recommend Rigali for the juvenile court post.
The whole thing is kind of interesting because it sets up a rare (only?) Governor's coucil rejection of a Romney judicial pick. The rejection will further cement the council's authority should an SJC opening occur, and force Romney to stick to his shield even if he thinks he can make a case. The other interesting dynamic is that the opening is in Vickery's district -- how that sways the other councilors will be interesting. We can assume that the tie goes to the Gov, so we need five councilors to stop this nomination, and send a message to Romney that we want him to stick to JNC -- my bet is that no one (not a single person) writes their Governor's councilor -- so it would be fun to do it in this case. This page has instructions for finding your Gov. Councilor -- it's out-of-date for the 8th District -- if you are in Vickery's district, contact him through his site.