Letter: Governor's Council vital to checks, balances


To the editor of THE EAGLE:

The Nov. 30 Berkshire Eagle editorial titled "Troublesome anachronism" is deserving of a response from the member of the Governor's Council representing Western Massachusetts. The editorial, which concludes by recommending the council be eliminated, is primarily based on two judicial nominations of Governor Patrick; Attorney Michael McCarthy of Pittsfield and Attorney Joseph Berman of Weston.

For the record, I supported and lobbied for Attorney McCarthy before my election to the council; voted for his confirmation as a member of the council; and, have advocated for his appointment to the bench to the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts.

Following Attorney Berman's hearing on Nov. 13, I forwarded a letter to the governor stating my favorable advice and consent of the nomination to the Superior Court. Therefore, I stand in agreement with The Eagle on both nominations.

However, I am not in agreement to abolish the Governor's Council. In my opinion, elimination of the council would not lead to a better system of state government.

Playing out the nuclear option of abolishment, let's examine what our citizens could expect in terms of process and results.

One need only to look to the U.S. Senate, the legislative body responsible for providing advice and consent on presidential nominations, to view a possible scenario.

One senator of the 100-member body, for any reason, can hold up a nomination simply by not submitting a "blue slip" of paper to the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Currently, there are 31 positions in the federal judiciary that have been vacant for six months or more, with one vacancy in North Carolina dating back to 2006.

Locally, the U.S. District Court in Springfield illustrates the point. Earlier this year, Superior Court Jeffrey Kinder withdrew as a candidate to the federal District Court. Judge Kinder, nominated by President Obama in 2011 with the bipartisan support of Senators John Kerry and Scott Brown, was denied a confirmation hearing for reasons still unknown to the public.

Hampden County District Attorney Mark Mastroianni, elected as an Independent, was nominated to the same position in September, and still has not had his confirmation hearing scheduled before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Lindsay Graham, senator from South Carolina, has publicly stated he would hold up all judicial nominations from the president until he gets answers on Benghazi.

Further, a confirmation process left to a legislative body invites classic political horse trading, such as legislation in exchange for confirmation to the judiciary, and would be far more problematic.

The Governor's Council, created by the Massachusetts Constitution and authored by John Adams, adopted in 1780, serves the useful purpose of providing checks and balances to the executive branch.

Adoption of the nuclear option to abolish the council is not a viable option, in my opinion.



The writer is a member of the Governor's Council from the 8th District.


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