Berkshire County legal community heaps praise on Rota


PITTSFIELD -- If attorney William A. Rota wondered how well-liked and respected he is within the Berkshire County legal community, he should have a better understanding now.

A succession of speakers on Monday praised Rota, a former prosecutor and longtime lawyer in the Pittsfield area, during a judicial nomination public input session at the Berkshire Superior Courthouse.

Rota has been nominated by Gov. Deval Patrick to become an associate justice at Southern Berkshire District Court and will appear Wednesday in Boston before the Governor's Council, which must confirm the nomination.

Attorneys, judges and friends praised Rota's preparedness, intelligence and legal acumen, as well as his sense of fairness and balance. He was said to always appear even-handed and calm in the courtroom, displaying a sense of humor and knowledge and understanding of the people and the community.

"The governor could not have named a better candidate, and Berkshire County could not be served better," said District Court Judge Fredric D. Rutberg. "He has my absolute, full and unqualified support."

Berkshire District Attorney David F. Capeless said of Rota, "You can see by all the people here he is very well-respected within the legal community, not just by his fellow attorneys but I think everyone who works with him."

District courts are "our community courts," Capeless said, and its judges need a "sense of people as much as they have a knowledge of the law. Bill has that."

Berkshire Bar Association President Chris S. Dodig, whose organization helped sponsor the council session in Pittsfield, read from a letter submitted by the bar. He said Rota "understands the unique characteristics of Berkshire County, and it would be a natural progression for him to finish his career as a judge serving this region."

Attorney Leonard H. Cohen, a colleague for many years, said he would advocate on behalf of the public in the nomination process, adding, "The public deserves to have the very best, so if you want to confirm the very best, confirm Bill Rota."

Rota "has worked both sides of the aisle," as a prosecutor and a defense attorney, and has come to understand the people and the community, which is especially important at the district court level, Cohen said.

Janet H. Pumphrey, who also worked with Rota, said he "was quite the mentor and I really appreciated it." She said she read many of his cases and knows him to be "an excellent lawyer. He doesn't make mistakes and he plays fairly and plays by the rules."

Rota's experience and balanced approach, she said, would ensure people whose experience in District Court may be limited leave feeling they have been treated fairly. "Bill can do both those things," Pumphrey said.

Nearly 80 people attended the public comment session, which was conducted by Governor's Council members Michael Albano of Longmeadow and Michael Albano and Robert Jubinville of Milton, who said they hope to hold additional regional public sessions for nominees for posts outside eastern Massachusetts.

The councilors oversaw a similar public input session July 14 in Springfield for William J. O'Grady, a nominee for associate justice of the Chicopee District Court. Several speakers on Monday thanked the councilors for providing an opportunity to offer testimony on a nominee "without having to travel to Boston."

Rota has 30 years of private practice experience in civil and criminal litigation. He has maintained a practice in Pittsfield since 2000 and from 1986 to 2000 worked in the Cain, Hibbard, Myers & Cook firm in the city. He also served as an assistant district attorney in Berkshire County for three years during the 1980s.

Albano predicted at the close of the meeting that Rota's nomination hearing before the full eight-member council "will go smoothly," saying he would "guarantee" confirmation. The statement prompted a round of applause.

In the post, Rota would fill a vacancy created by the retirement of Judge James B. McElroy.

The governor nominated Pittsfield attorney Michael J. McCarthy to the same Southern Berkshire judgeship in late 2012, but the nomination was rejected by the Governor's Council after a disputed tie vote. McCarthy has since appealed to the counts, and his lawsuit is now before the state Supreme Judicial Court.

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