By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

The Governor’s Council strikes again

How pathetic is this? The Boston Herald reports today that two members of the Governor’s Council are unhappy they were not told about Kathe Tuttman’s role in letting a child rapist go before they approved her nomination as a judge. In fact, they have no one but themselves to blame for their ignorance.

Tuttman, of course, is the judge at the center of the controversy over convicted killer Daniel Tavares, who was released and is now the suspect in the murder of a young couple in Washington state. Mitt Romney, who appointed her to the bench when he was governor, is now demanding her resignation — despite a plethora of evidence that Tavares was released because of a systemic breakdown involving several public officials, as Shelley Murphy reports in the Boston Globe.

According to today’s Herald story (link now fixed), by Dave Wedge and Jessica Van Sack, Councilor Marilyn Petitto Devaney says she is “shocked and outraged” that the council was never told about the earlier incident, while Councilor Mary-Ellen Manning has joined her in asking Gov. Deval Patrick to take steps to remove Tuttman from the bench.

Yet, as Wedge wrote yesterday, the Daily Item of Lynn reported on the child rapist’s release in 2005, six months before Tuttman, then an Essex County prosecutor, had even been nominated as a judge. Referring to the fact that the rapist, Daniel Parra, had been released because Tuttman’s office had missed a deadline to recommit him civilly, Tuttman told the Item: “In terms of our own internal protocol, we have, since this occurred, developed a system to keep a case from falling through the cracks again.” (In today’s Item, Thor Jourgensen reports that Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett is defending Tuttman’s track record.)

And get this: Manning lives in Peabody, which is part of the Item’s circulation area. Shouldn’t Governor’s Council members read the papers in their district?

The Herald story also quotes Mitt Romney’s lieutenant governor, Kerry Healey, as saying the administration didn’t know nothin’. “I wish that sort of information had been more available during the public hearing process,” Healey said. “It seems this process, despite its thoroughness, and I can attest to its thoroughness, failed.” Hmmm … I would assume that the customary definition of “thoroughness” would include checking the clips.

So why exactly do we have a Governor’s Council? It is nothing but a useless holdover from Colonial times — a third branch of the Legislature, when, in fact, two are quite enough. Let the Senate hold hearings and vote on judicial appointments. The senators might not be any better at it than the councilors. But they’re better known and more accountable than members of the Governor’s Council are.

Maybe the hearings would even get some attention — which would make it more likely that stories such as the one involving Tuttman, hidden in plain sight, would come to light before any vote was taken.

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  1. adamg

    Marilyn “Curling Iron” Devaney is shocked and outraged by pretty much everything.Like you said, the better question in the long run is: Why do we have this colonial holdover anymore? For that matter, why are the secretary of state, treasurer and auditor still elected positions?

  2. Anonymous

    Kerry Healey was an abject embarrassment as Lieutenant Governor and gubernatorial candidate, in spite of her apparent intelligence. One might think that she learned her lesson, all the more so since Romney slighted her so callously during the campaign. So what is this self-professed criminal justice expert doing embarrassing herself once again with contorted rationalizations and sycophantic defenses of Romney? Does she somehow think that if he is elected, she will get a prominent position in his administration? Or is Romney’s egregious hypocrisy contagious?

  3. Peter Porcupine

    To return our the story – State House News Service does a decent job of covering Gov. Council deliberations, but the coverage and stories never make it out of ‘the building’. It’s been very hard to find appointees that could pass their partisan muster, and a Reich-supporting prosecutor was one of them. Sort of like the stranglehold our Judiciary Committee in Washington has of the appointment of Federal judges, as the docket swells and justice is delayed.

  4. Steve

    PP: “Sort of like the stranglehold our Judiciary Committee in Washington has of the appointment of Federal judges, as the docket swells and justice is delayed.”You felt this way 8 years ago too, right?

  5. Peter Porcupine

    Steve – Actually, yes. The creation of Borking – the discrediting of an otherwise qualified judicial candiate for partisan gain – is the most troubling aspect of our rancid partisan relations. The ‘He did it FIRST’ excuse is increasingly shrill and irrelevant.Eisenhower didn’t expect the decisions he got from Earl Warren – why can’t Democrats accept that jurists and students of law might make just as good judges as campaign hacks? Oh, and I personally blogged to defeat Harriet Miers – I don’t tolerate it on my own side, either.

  6. Anonymous

    Anon 10:40:There’s a difference between debate and rhetoric. Thanks for illustrating it.

  7. Dan Kennedy

    PP: Competence should be a given. Judicial philosophy should be the principal issue in deciding whether to approve a nominee. And a president should make very different choices depending on whether he has a majority that can withstand a filibuster, a regular majority, or is in fact in the minority.Robert Bork was an outstanding judge, and he was rightly defeated because the Democrats had a majority in the Senate. Under those conditions, the president should have chosen a consensus nominee.Let’s not forget that Bill Clinton negotiated with the Republican leadership over which judges would be acceptable, and that Ginsburg and Breyer were both on that mutually agreed-upon list.

  8. Peter Porcupine

    But Dan – the Gingrigh era Republicans wre WILLING to negotiate; the Pelosi era Democrats are not. Ergo – there now IS no mutually agreed upon list or consensus nominee (and let’s not forget, that’s how we got Judge Tuttman in the first place – a consensus nominee with the Governor’s Council).Saying that former Rep. Reed Hillman, former State Police Colonel and law enforcement professional has insufficient law enforcement experience to be a US Marshal is anotehr good example of how the Democrats will not negotiate.

  9. Dan Kennedy

    PP: Not to be a stickler for the facts, but you’re naming House leaders. Judicial confirmation is a Senate matter. And yes, Clinton would have worked with Dole and/or Lott, both of whom came from a bipartisan era that has long since passed — and that Gingrich was most definitely not a part of.

  10. endangered coffee

    In all fairness, only about 9 people in Peabody still read the Item.

  11. Amusedbutinformedobserver

    One of the more interesting reads concerning Massachusetts state government is the 1935 inaugural address of the state’s 53rd Governor. James M. Curley hit most of the major reform issues of the past quarter century, including the need to be rid of the Executive Council (although perhaps a cynic might suggest that he merely wanted to cut an excess layer of graft.) This is indeed Willard’s Willie Horton. The right-wing is going to have a lot of difficulty with his now-proven inability to vet judges; the increasingly strident call for true conservative judges is simply incompatible with someone who will be painted as having botched a judicial appointment. Highly unlikely that Willard is going to be able to ‘splain away both his flip-flops on abortion and gay rights and his inability to make sure a judicial appointment is sufficiently conservative. The right wants activist judges to make law in areas such as abortion and gay rights by stripping citizens of their rights under the constitution. Willard had enough trouble getting his position on abortion and gay rights to the right’s liking, showing a breakdown in picking a judge won’t make them warm and cozy when they want conservative judges making law from the bench. Not much more for Willard to do except grovel for a cabinet post.

  12. Dan Kennedy

    Endangered: True, but one of those nine ought to be the governor’s councilor whose district includes Lynn.

  13. Anonymous

    As long as you’re abolishing the Governor’s Council, let’s overhaul municipal government. Why does every city and town have a separate police force, fire department, weights and measures inspector, zoning, etc. Let’s push more functions back up to the county or state level, or merge cities and towns.

  14. Bart Nagle

    While we are getting rid of the Council, lets get rid of the Senate as well. We don’t have a federal government on Beacon Hill. Why do we need two chambers? Why not add 40 seats to the House and have a unicameral legislature?

  15. Anonymous

    Dan, Thanks for pointing out the shortcomings in the Herald’s reporting. The Parra screwup was also reported in the Boston Globe at the time. Unlike the Worcester DA’s office this week, Kathe Tuttman stood up and acknowledged responsibility for the lapses, even though it was most likely a subordinate who dropped the ball. She didn’t scapegoat someone or try to avoid the reporter’s questions. Devaney and Manning appear to be taking a cheap shot and the Herald is all too willing to ride along. After all, Tuttman was also the supervisor of the unit when it prosecuted Christopher Reardon and countless others. Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly has some interesting takes on the situation on their website today, by the way.

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