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

Tag: Governor’s Council

Backward reels the mind

From a story by Dave Wedge in today’s Boston Herald:

Governor’s Councilor Mary-Ellen Manning came down hard on Superior Court Judge Francis Fecteau during a confirmation hearing on his nomination to the appeals court, asking him if he’s made any controversial rulings in the past that could come back to haunt the board or Gov. Deval Patrick.

“Are there any cases where you’ve been publicly criticized for light sentences for criminals?” Manning asked Fecteau during a hearing yesterday, State House News reported. Manning also asked Fecteau if any of his decisions had been overturned by a higher court. He said that 16 of 117 civil and criminal decisions had been overturned.

“Are there any cases where you’ve been publicly criticized?” This reads like something out of the Onion. Madame Councilor, why haven’t you checked the clips? The judge isn’t going to do it for you. Neither am I. But surely someone would be willing to give you a hand.

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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