Baker deepens his imprint on the dishes
BOSTON (State House News Service) – Gov. Charlie Baker is trimming down the state’s judiciary vacancy list as he prepares to leave the corner office in January, but there are at least eight more vacancies the Swampscott Republican has in the could occupy coming months.
Baker, who selected all seven Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court during his two terms, is facing a low volume of job openings, partly reflecting the steady stream of nominees he’s already brought to the bench this year. Governor’s elections are almost always approved by the Board of Governors, an elected body that has the final say over its selection.
On Wednesday, for example, councilors are scheduled to vote on whether to bench three new candidates and plan to hold four public interviews with other candidates.
Of the relatively few remaining vacancies, two are court clerk positions with lifetime tenure, as opposed to judicial positions, which are capped by a mandatory retirement age of 70.
Marlborough District Court has been without a top clerk since May 2021, according to data from the Judicial Nominating Commission, a body that screens applicants and recommends potential candidates to Baker.
The last person to hold that position, former Newton Assemblyman Paul Malloy, had been in office since January 1983, when he was confirmed in office by Governor Edward King on the last full day.
King filled so many vacancies by the end of his term that the board of governors voted on 16 of his appointments on his last day in office, according to the intelligence service.
The job in Marlborough was recently temporarily filled by acting clerk Jennifer Lennon, according to the court’s website.
Lennon’s name was mentioned during a 2020 debate in the Board of Governors when members were considering Baker’s selection of Damian Riddle as clerk of Ayer District Court, where Lennon had also been “acting” clerk.
Councilor Marilyn Devaney criticized the fact that Lennon didn’t get the job permanently, and claims that Lennon had applied for the position but was passed over by the Judicial Nominating Commission, which did not invite her for an interview.
The other judgeship only became vacant in Somerville District Court in July, after Kimberly Foster gave up her clerkship to become a judge. According to that court’s website, the acting Somerville judge is Rachel Hickey.
While Baker has handed some posts over to political allies, like former Republican Rep. Sheila Harrington in Gardner and former Republican governor Jennie Caissie in Dudley, he has promoted from within in some cases, like his this year’s surveys of acting clerk Brian Costa in Salem and Erica Colombo in Malden.
Baker also has the option, according to his office, to replace at least two members of the Superior Court and two members of the Court of Appeals, who announced four justices would be retiring: Justice Laurence Pierce, a Superior Court justice appointed by Patrick, and Judge John Lu, a Romney commissioner; and on the Court of Appeals, Romney-appointed Judge C. Jeffrey Kinder and Judge James Lemire, whom Baker promoted to that Court in 2016.
And Baker could potentially make two more choices for the county court system, where state law limits the number of judges to 158. The technical list of vacancies can be long (it currently includes vacancies from 1981, 1985 and 2002). , the number of judges currently serving on the bench determines how many new ones can be installed.
There are currently 154 judges serving in the district court, a spokeswoman for the Department of Justice told the news service on Tuesday.
Three of the Baker District Court nominees are yet to face the board of governors — two of whom are expected to come to a vote on Wednesday and another is scheduled for a pre-confirmation meeting. If they are all approved, that leaves the governor with an opportunity to review at short notice.
His office said it also expects District Judge Thomas Barrett, a representative appointed by Gov. Paul Cellucci in 2000, to retire later in the year.
Meanwhile, U.S. Senate workflow and will could play into the governor’s final months.
In July, President Joseph Biden tapped the Ayer District Court Judge Margaret Guzman and judges of the Boston Municipal Court Myoung Joun for US District Court seats, although both of her nominations are awaiting action by the US Senate Judiciary Committee.