State Police Association backs Jennie Caissie for Governor’s Council
BUDD CONFIRMATION MEANS THREE BAKER APPOINTEES SET TO JOIN SJC
By Katie Lannan
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, AUG. 10, 2016….The Governor’s Council on Wednesday confirmed Kimberly Budd to a seat on the Supreme Judicial Court, marking a complete sweep for Gov. Charlie Baker in his first bid at reshaping the state’s high court in the face of multiple judicial retirements.
A Gov. Deval Patrick appointee who has served as a Superior Court justice since 2009, Budd is currently a regional administrative justice responsible for overseeing the administration and management of criminal business in Middlesex County.
Superior Court Judge Kimberly Budd on Wednesday became the third of Gov. Charlie Baker’s nominees to the state’s highest court to be confirmed unanimously by the Governor’s Council [Photo: Antonio Caban/SHNS]
“Her record is this: she has been a law and order judge on the Superior Court, and she will continue to be a law and order judge on the Massachusetts Supreme Court,” Councilor Jennie Caissie said.
The vote followed the council’s unanimous confirmations of judges Frank Gaziano and David Lowy, whose nominations Baker announced with Budd’s in June.
“Judge Kimberly Budd’s qualifications, temperament and confirmation today will ensure the Supreme Judicial Court is at full strength when they return for their first sitting in September,” Baker said in a statement. “I congratulate Judge Budd and Judges Frank Gaziano and David Lowy as we look forward to the impartiality and hard work they will bring to the Commonwealth’s highest court from decades of judicial practice.”
SJC judges Francis Spina and Robert Cordy are scheduled to retire on Friday. Fernande Duffly stepped down from the bench a month ago.
When the court begins its new session in the fall, it will do so with three of its seven justices picked by Baker. Two more SJC judges — Geraldine Hines and Margot Botsford — will reach the mandatory retirement age of 70 during the Republican governor’s first term, guaranteeing him a chance to appoint the majority of the bench.
“I want to applaud the governor and the lieutenant governor for not only Judge Budd, but Judges Gaziano and Lowy because the court is not tilted to the right, as some were suspect of,” Councilor Michael Albano said. “It’s a moderate, left-leaning court, at least by the answers that they gave to the executive council. So these are three qualified individuals, and I think the governor has two more, and if they’re anything like the first three, it’s going to be a very good Supreme Judicial Court for many, many years to come.”
When he announced his three nominees, Baker said he wants his administration’s legacy in the SJC to be “a court that people believe makes its decisions based on the rule of law, gives everybody the hearing they deserve and treats everybody with the level of respect and decency that the law demands.”
While Budd and Hines are on the SJC bench, the court will have an unprecedented two African-American women justices. Budd said during the hearing her background would give her a “different perspective on the world.”
A Newton resident and the daughter of former U.S. Attorney Wayne Budd, Budd has previously worked as an assistant U.S. attorney and as Harvard’s university attorney. Albano described the Budds as “one of the great public service families in America today.”
During her hearing last week, Budd told councilors that she opposes the death penalty and the imposition of mandatory minimum sentences, that she believes too many people are included on the Sex Offender Registry and that she doesn’t “see any reason why an illegal immigrant couldn’t have a driver’s license.”
Budd’s comments on sex offenders and driver’s licenses for unauthorized immigrants met pushback from Taunton Republican Rep. Shaunna O’Connell, who said such stances made Budd “unfit to serve” on the high court. Before voting to confirm Budd Wednesday, councilors fired back at the criticism of the nominee.
Caissie and Councilor Marilyn Devaney each said they had spoken to Budd to clarify remarks they described as taken out of context by O’Connell.
Devaney said Budd was asked to respond to a hypothetical situation about a 16-year-old boy found guilty of statutory rape after having sex with a girlfriend who had not yet turned 16, the age of consent in Massachusetts.
“When Judge Budd was presented this, she said there are many like that that should not be on a sex offender registry,” said Devaney, a Watertown Democrat. Devaney said, “It’s unfair to a person to demean them and misrepresent what actually happened.”
Caissie, an Oxford Republican, said she reached out to Budd on the driver’s license issue, and the judge “made it very clear” that she would follow existing law.
A law Baker signed last month to bring the state into compliance with the federal Real ID act included language specifying that Massachusetts driver’s licenses can only be obtained by people who are lawfully present in the country.
“I think it’s very unfortunate that there are some that will play political pattycake and take answers out of context to benefit from a 24-hour-news cycle,” Caissie said. “What we do in this room is solemn, and when you talk about the appointment of a Supreme Court justice, I know my colleagues and I work incredibly hard. It was a six-hour hearing, and I think if you’re going to criticize a nominee’s answers you might want to spend a little time at the hearing. I don’t recall seeing anybody from the House of Representatives here.”
Councilor Joseph Ferreira of Somerset said the question of whether people in the country illegally should be eligible for driver’s licenses “will never be decided by the Supreme Judicial Court.”
“It’s a statutory matter, to be decided by the Legislature only,” he said. “There is no constitutional right to drive a car.”
IN LOWY, COUNCIL APPROVES SECOND OF THREE BAKER PICKS FOR SJC
By Colin A. Young
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, JULY 27, 2016…..David Lowy, a Superior Court judge and law school professor with close ties to Gov. Charlie Baker and others in state government, will soon don a black robe as the newest justice of the Supreme Judicial Court.
The Governor’s Council, which held an eight-hour confirmation hearing for Lowy last week, voted unanimously on Wednesday to confirm him to the state’s high court. He was one of Baker’s two pending nominees to the SJC. The council recently confirmed Superior Court Justice Frank Gaziano for a seat on the top court.
The Governor’s Council on Wednesday unanimously confirmed Judge David Lowy to the state’s highest court. [Photo: Antonio Caban/SHNS]
“An exceptional candidate, a judge’s judge, the go-to guy. For any judge in the commonwealth that I talked to that needed a tidbit of advice, he’s the guy that everyone went to,” Councilor Joseph Ferreira of Somerset said. “He’s brilliant, he teaches all the judges evidence. Congratulations, he’s going to be a great addition to our Supreme Judicial Court.”
Lowy worked with Baker in the administration of former Gov. William Weld as deputy legal counsel before Weld put him on the district court bench in 1997. The late Gov. Paul Cellucci elevated Lowy to the Superior Court in 2001. Lowy’s wife, Virginia Buckingham, also worked for Weld as chief of staff and campaign manager for Weld’s 1996 U.S. Senate race against John Kerry before running the Massachusetts Port Authority.
“Judge David Lowy is a highly experienced and dedicated jurist and I am confident that he will serve the Commonwealth’s Supreme Judicial Court and all that comes before it with fair and impartial justice,” Baker said in a statement.
Among those present for the vote to confirm Lowy was SJC Justice Robert Cordy, whom Lowy would replace on the high court. At his confirmation hearing, Cordy said he could not “think of a finer or more prepared person for the position of associate justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts” than Lowy.
Councilor Jennie Caissie of Oxford, the lone Republican on the council, praised Lowy for his respect for “lawful gun owners and Second Amendment rights, which is apparently not a view held by some of our elected officials here in the commonwealth.”
“He is an extraordinary legal mind, but he is also practical and understands the importance of public safety and the separation of powers that make our democracy run,” she said. “And very importantly, he said during his hearing that he would not have denied Tom Brady’s appeal.”
The eight-member elected council has now confirmed two of the three nominees Baker has sought to put on the SJC this summer to fill vacancies caused by retirements before the court picks up again in September. The council is scheduled to hold a confirmation hearing for the third Baker nominee, Kimberly Budd, on Aug. 3.
SJC Chief Justice Ralph Gants has expressed the importance of having the new justices seated on the bench before the court opens a new session and begins to hear cases again in the fall.
COUNCILOR CAISSIE SUGGESTS COMMON SENSE TOWARD POLITO’S PLAN of PRESIDING OVER CONFIRMATION HEARINGS
By Matt Murphy
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, JUNE 15, 2016….Not one of Gov. Charlie Baker’s Supreme Judicial Court nominees has even fielded a question, but already bad blood between the administration and the Governor’s Council spilled over Wednesday when half the council objected to Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito’s intention to preside over their confirmation hearings.
Baker and Polito nominated three Superior Court judges – Kimberly Budd, Frank Gaziano and David Lowy – on Tuesday to fill vacancies opening up on the state’s highest court by retirements this summer.
Though councilors typically preside over confirmation hearings of judicial nominees from their district, it has been common practice in recent years for the lieutenant governor, who is president of the Governor’s Council, to preside over hearings for spots on the top court. The latest nominees hail from the districts of Councilors Christopher Iannella, Terrence Kennedy and Marilyn Devaney.
Four of the eight elected members of the Governor’s Council, however, objected on Wednesday to Polito’s intention to preside over the upcoming hearings, challenging her at a public meeting to explain why after never attending a hearing for previous nominees to lower courts she wants to wield the gavel now. “Karyn Polito has never attended one Governor’s Council hearing ever since she’s been lieutenant governor and suddenly she wants to be in the spotlight,” Councilor Eileen Duff said in an interview. “This is all about publicity, it’s all about press and it’s all about Karyn Polito. It’s not about the Governor’s Council and it’s not about the candidates. It’s absolutely disrespectful and outrageous.”
Councilor Robert Jubinville, one of the four to object, said his fellow councilors were either loyal to the council or loyal to the administration. “You can’t be both,” he said.
While flare-ups between the council and past administrations have been relatively common, this council’s relationship with Baker has so far been cordial with no nominees so far being rejected. Gov. Baker even signed into law a pay raise for the council as part of this year’s budget. That could be changing.
“This administration is not setting these people up very well now for not having a whole lot of tie votes coming up,” said Duff.
The confrontation began when Councilor Marilyn Devaney, who has in her career presided over several hearings for Supreme Judicial Court nominees, asked Polito why she was “choosing not to allow me or my colleagues to preside?” “Why don’t you preside over all the hearings then? Why is it important for you to take our duties?” Devaney asked.
Polito responded by reading from a section of the constitution that defines her role as president of the council, and citing past precedent in both Republican and Democratic administrations. Some councilors said the constitution refers only to general voting assemblies of the council, and not confirmation hearings, which are not required by law.
“Historically, lieutenant governors have presided over the hearings of the SJC nominees, including, as far as I can research, Lieutenant Governors (Timothy) Murray and (Paul) Cellucci dating back to the 1990s so there’s tradition, there’s precedent and there’s the constitution and I’m not doing anything different than those that have come before me and I’m not aware of circumstances that have changed to warrant a departure from what has been done in the past,” Polito said.
Murray presided over at least four Supreme Judicial Court confirmation hearings before he resigned from Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration, leaving the position of lieutenant governor vacant.
“Murray at least asked,” Councilor Christopher Iannella told Polito.
Before Justice Barbara Lenk’s confirmation hearing in 2011, Devaney briefly pushed to be able to preside, but relented to Murray’s desire to preside as he had for past Patrick nominees to the SJC. “Let him do it. It’s his few minutes of fame, so give it to him,” Devaney said at the time. This time, however, Devaney is not alone in objecting. “If you’re doing it for publicity, I would suggest you got plenty of publicity yesterday. There is no reason why you’d do this other than to try to help your candidates through and I suggest that creates a conflict in and of itself,” Jubinville told Polito.
Jubinville admitted that the chance for a day in the spotlight had some appeal to councilors as well.
“I don’t know why do you want to take it away from us. This is a chance for councilors to do a hearing like we did with Judge (Ralph) Gants, to get some publicity and you’re taking it away,” he said.
Polito said her only objective is to have a “fair, open, professional, well-organized process,” a comment that also drew the ire of councilors. Jubinville called it “insulting and demeaning” to suggest a councilor couldn’t run a fair hearing, and said, “I hope she apologizes for that remark.”
Duff, a Gloucester Democrat who touted Democrat Mike Lake’s run for lieutenant governor in 2014, took it further, saying that if Polito is concerned about fairness the administration should release the names of the finalists for the three nominations and Polito should recuse herself in the event that a tie on the council would give the tie-breaking vote to the lieutenant governor.
“This is a respect issue. That’s what this is about. This administration doesn’t ask. This administration tells. This administration is arrogant. This is Charlie Baker does what Charlie Baker wants and nobody in this building calls him out on it, not one Democrat in our leadership,” Duff said. “There is never a discussion with this administration. It’s a dictatorship. You’re told what is going to happen.”
Not all of the councilors agreed with their colleagues. Councilor Michael Albano said it was the administration’s “prerogative, whether we like it or not.” “I’m a Democrat, they’re a Republican, they won,” Albano said.
Councilor Terrence Kennedy, who counts Lowy as a constituent, also said he believes it’s up to the administration to decide, and Councilor Jennie Caissie, the only Republican on the council, said Polito’s presence would “add an aura of importance” to the proceedings.
“I don’t think anybody should be taking or making this personal. It’s a little absurd, quite frankly,” Caissie said.
The only discussion of the three nominees’ qualifications came after the meeting Wednesday when, in an interview, Duff questioned why not one of Baker’s picks came from the appellate court, which would have given them more experience to deal with the “tremendous amount of writing” that they’ll have to do if confirmed to the SJC.
Jubinville said he didn’t think the spat would influence the hearings. “I don’t think we’re going to take it out on some nominee because we’re having a problem with the administration,” he said.
In a statement, Baker press secretary Billy Pitman reiterated Polito’s intention and right to preside over the hearings: “The Governor was pleased to nominate three very experienced and highly respected judges to vacancies on the Supreme Judicial Court and looks forward to their consideration by the Governor’s Council. Lt. Governor Polito looks forward to chairing the nominees’ hearings as past lieutenant governors have done under Governors’ Weld and Patrick,” Pitman said.
The council did manage to schedule hearings for all three nominees in the newly renovated fourth-floor Senate hearing room starting with Gaziano on July 6, Lowy on July 20 and Budd on Aug. 3.
“Can we set a date and I’ll buy the first round at the 21st after you’ve all calmed down, kissed and made up,” Caissie said.
FEDERAL CIVIL PROSECUTOR CONFIRMED TO STATE SUPERIOR COURT BENCH
By Katie Lannan
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, APRIL 13, 2016… The civil division chief of the U.S. Attorney’s office in Boston was confirmed Wednesday for a seat on the Massachusetts Superior Court bench after one member of the Governor’s Council raised concerns over what she described as declining standards for judicial appointments.
Rosemary Connolly, a West Roxbury resident tapped by Gov. Charlie Baker to replace retiring Associate Judge Frances McIntyre, was approved on a 6-2 vote by the Governor’s Council, the eight-member elected body that vets judicial nominees.
Connolly previously worked for 11 years in the attorney general’s office, including more than six years as chief of the trial division. She began her legal career as a paralegal and became a full-time law clerk while attending Suffolk University Law School. At a hearing last week, Connolly told the council she had wanted to be a lawyer since childhood and became interested in the work of judges while in law school.
Councilor Marilyn Devaney, one of the two votes against Connolly, said she took issue with the number of times Connolly had applied for a judgeship, referencing nine applications to five courts over 16 years.
“It appears Attorney Connolly just wants a robe, and any court will do,” Devaney said “This may be a Guinness judiciary record.”
Devaney also brought up Connolly’s lack of criminal experience, a topic councilors had pressed the civil litigator on during her nomination hearing.
“I have deep concerns over how standards for appointing judges have been lowered,” Devaney said. “I think of the qualified, experienced people who must have applied for this position and were rejected. What do those bypassed applicants think of the credibility of this process?”
Councilor Robert Jubinville cast the other vote against Connolly, saying his only issue was that she had said she would put an addict in jail for failing a drug test. Jubinville said he hoped his vote would prompt Connolly to reconsider her position.
Of the six members who backed Connolly, Councilor Jennie Caissie was the only one to speak before the vote. Saying Connolly had impressed the majority of the council and demonstrated she would be a strong advocate for public safety, Caissie praised the judicial nominee for an “incredible work ethic” and “excellent legal writing skills.”
“She sealed my vote and my support when she responded to my question what was her favorite movie — My Cousin Vinny,” Caissie said to a murmur of laughter.
STATE CAPITOL BRIEFS – LUNCH EDITION – WEDNESDAY, FEB. 17, 2016
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
COUNCILOR DIGS INTO DISTRICT COURT NOMINEE’S GUN VIEWS
[Story Developing] Judicial views on firearms are likely to become an issue as Gov. Charlie Baker seeks to fill at least three seats on the state’s highest court, a member of a judicial nominee review panel said Wednesday. Jennie Caissie, the lone Republican on the eight-member elected Governor’s Council that vets judicial nominees, found harmony with the gun views of Michele Ouimet-Rooke, the nominee for a Springfield District Court judgeship. The daughter of a Springfield firefighter and U.S. Marine Corps veteran, Ouimet-Rooke told councilors at her nomination hearing Wednesday that she respected guns growing up and is an “enormous supporter of the Second Amendment” – which gives Americans the right to bear arms. “Law-abiding citizens who own guns legally, they’re not shooting up the local Dairy Mart,” Ouimet-Rooke, 52, said during questioning by Caissie. “I couldn’t agree with you more,” Caissie responded. The Oxford Republican indicated she would make gun rights an issue as the council prepares to vet and vote on nominees for at least three soon-to-be vacated seats on the Supreme Judicial Court. “I know we’re going to hear a lot more about it. We’ve got three, maybe four SJC picks coming up. It’s a question that I know I ask nominees,” Caissie said. She said, “Our SJC seems to engage in a legal game of Twister, if you will, to find ways not to respect law-abiding citizens’ Second Amendment rights.” – Andy Metzger/SHNS
The Parole Board released Dominic Cinelli, who then shot and killed a Woburn Police officer in December of 2010.
“Cinelli is ‘The Willie Horton of this administration’ ”
~ Jen Caissie, Governor’s Council member from Oxford, MA
Below is Jen Caissie’s “As I See It” Guest Column from Worcester Telegram & Gazette, May 18, 2011
WHY WORCESTER COUNTY NEEDS THE GOVERNOR’S COUNCIL
On November 2, 2010, I was elected to serve on the Governor’s Council for the 7th District. The Governor’s Council was created by John Adams, Samuel Adams and the other founding fathers to be a check on the power of the Massachusetts Governor. Our founders believed the need for checks and balances so important to our system of government that they made the Governor’s Council a Constitutional office in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The Council may be even more relevant today because Massachusetts is a one-party state, which lacks checks and balances.
The Council consists of eight members elected by the people in eight districts throughout the Commonwealth. Our District (the 7th) consists of 68 cities and towns and is primarily composed of Worcester County communities. The Governor’s Council is the final approval of all lifetime appointments of judges and clerk magistrates and it is the final approval of members of the Massachusetts Parole Board. The Council also votes on commutations and pardons.
Given the enduring role of the Council, it is unfortunate that there is a movement afoot by a few members the Senate to abolish the Council. They want to upset the delicate checks and balances of power the Council was intended to help maintain. Why now ? Prior to January 2011, the Governor’s Council had been criticized for being both a “rubber stamp.” Now it is being criticized for being too contentious. So instead of being a “rubber stamp” of predictability, now some votes are too close to call, or too close for comfort for some. For example, there have been a handful of tie votes that have required the Lieutenant Governor to be the tie breaker. Prior to January 2010, this had not happened in five years. So someone needs to make up their mind: either the Council is a “rubber stamp” and thus must be abolished, or you want it to be a “rubber stamp” and it no longer is, so it must be abolished.
It would be a mistake to abolish the Council, not just because the arguments to do so are politically motivated, but more importantly because the Council provides the people of Massachusetts with an independent voice in the lifetime appointments of judges, clerk magistrates and members of the Parole Board. In essence the Council is the people’s only voice at the gates of justice. The proposals being discussed would have the Senate, or their designees confirming judges, clerk magistrates and Parole Board members. For Worcester County, this will mean that the confirmation authority, which is now spread out across the eight Governor’s Council Districts, would become a Boston centered panel or group. This would deprive Worcester County of a meaningful role in the judicial and Parole Board confirmation processes. Are we not already left out of major decisions because we are outside of the 128 ‘loop’? This would be a great disservice to Worcester County.
Since my election, I have worked to bring the concerns of my District to the judicial, clerk magistrate and Parole Board appointment processes. One of the most challenging tasks has been the confirmation process of the five new members of the Massachusetts Parole Board. Officer John Maguire was allegedly shot and killed on December 26, 2010 by Dominic Cinelli in an attempted armed robbery. Cinelli was serving three life sentences when he was granted paroled by the then Massachusetts Parole Board. The Parole Board members who voted to parole Cinelli were fired. At the end of all of the five confirmation hearings, I voted to put two prosecutors, a victims’ rights advocate and a forensic psychologist on the Parole Board.
The vote to put the victims’ rights advocate on the Parole Board was a 5 to 4 vote. There were several witnesses and others at the Parole Board hearings who thought it was outrageous to put a victims’ rights advocate, or prosecutors on the Parole Board. I thought it outrageous to not. Since voting to confirm the victims’ rights advocate, I have had the opportunity to read about her performance at a recent parole hearing for a double-murderer. After the convict explained why he should be paroled, she said “Either you have the worst luck ever, or you have no regard for human life. I think it is the latter.” Well said. It is important for the people of Worcester County to know that I voted in support of her nomination in a 5 to 4 vote.
I am grateful for this opportunity to explain why the Council is so important to our daily lives and why it is such a bad and shortsighted idea to tinker with our Constitution to abolish the Governor’s Council. The good folks in the 7th District, regardless of their political affiliations, want safe neighborhoods and good government. Doing away with the Governor’s Council accomplishes neither, of that you can be assured.