Former judge running for Western Mass. region's seat on Governor's Council

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SPRINGFIELD >> A prime motivation in Mary Hurley's campaign for a seat on the Governor's Council is to lobby for judicial nominations to fill an inordinate number of vacancies in Western Massachusetts courts.

A retired district court judge, Hurley seeks to replace current District 8 Councilor Michael Albano of Longmeadow, who is running for sheriff of Hampden County. The eight-member council reviews and confirms nominations from the governor for judgeships and court clerk and other positions.

Hurley, of Springfield, along with other judges from the region, this week called on Gov. Charlie Baker to nominate candidates to fill 10 current court vacancies within the council's District 8, encompassing Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin, and Berkshire counties and the town of Royalston in Worcester County.

Some of the judicial vacancies in the region have been open for nearly a decade, said Hurley. She said she spoke with the governor's legal counsel about the issue earlier this month.

"I applaud Governor Baker for the work that he has done filling vacancies in the judicial system during his tenure in office," Hurley said in a release. "I am confident that the governor and his staff will find qualified candidates from Western Massachusetts to fill these vacancies in the district courts."

Courts in the area are "currently operating shorthanded by roughly 30 percent of the judges who should staff the region," Hurley said.

She added in a phone interview that in the recent past, prior to the Great Recession, there were 28 district court judges in Western Massachusetts, compared to 18 today. In addition, of the 15 vacancies statewide that could be filled, 10 are from the western counties, she said, adding, "That is not fair."

In Berkshire County, she said there are four judge vacancies that could be filled.

According to state law, there is a cap on the maximum number of district court judges that may be appointed at any particular time. As of Oct. 30, Hurley said, there were 143 district court judges appointed to the bench, leaving a total of 15 vacancies from the threshold figure of 158.

After a process that includes reviews of candidates by a 21-member nominating commission, the governor forwards his choices to the Governor's Council. The council records advice and consent on gubernatorial appointments to the bench and other posts, and on pardons and commutations.

Hurley, 65, announced her candidacy for the region's council seat last fall. A Democrat, she currently faces no declared opposition for the party's nomination and no other candidates have come forward.

Hurley also is a former Springfield city councilor and two-term mayor, leaving office in 1992, and was the first woman elected to the latter post.

Albano, likewise is a former Springfield mayor, is leaving the council this year after four years to run for the sheriff's post in Hampden County.

"I am excited and invigorated," Hurley said Friday. "The law is my vocation and politics is my avocation."

She added, "I know what it takes to be a good judge, or a good [court] clerk. And I am not seeking to run for anything else" beyond the council.

Hurley was born in Springfield and is a lifelong resident of the Pioneer Valley. She retired in 2014 after serving 19 years as a district court judge, following 18 years as a practicing attorney.

She was a founding partner of Hurley, Melikian and Sousa of Springfield. After retiring, she has served of counsel to the Springfield firm Cooley Shrair.

She earned a law degree from the Western New England University School of Law, where she also taught as an adjunct professor of law. She earned a bachelor's degree from Elms College, where she also received an honorary doctorate degree.

More information is available at www.electmaryhurley.com.

Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247.


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