Pittsfield attorney William Rota nominated for Southern Berkshire judgeship


PITTSFIELD -- Local attorney William A. Rota has been nominated by Gov. Deval Patrick to become an associate justice of the Southern Berkshire District Court.

In a statement released Wednesday, the governor also nominated William J. O'Grady for associate justice of the Chicopee District Court.

"I am honored to nominate these two highly qualified litigators to serve the district court bench in Western Massachusetts," Patrick said.

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, according to the release.

O'Grady has practiced in Southampton and Springfield in the firm Parker & O'Grady since 1985. He also has experience with a Springfield firm and is an associate city solicitor in Chicopee and Westfield, and has served as a special assistant district attorney in Hampshire County.

Rota could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

His nomination will now go before the Governor's Council, which must confirm judicial appointments.

The Southern Berkshire court post, which opened with the retirement of Judge James B. McElroy, is the same post for which Pittsfield attorney Michael J. McCarthy was nominated in 2012 by the governor. McCarthy was not confirmed by the Governor's Council, but he has appealed that decision.

McCarthy's challenge is now before the Supreme Judicial Court in the form of an appeal of a rejection of his claims by a single court justice late last year. His attorney, Ralpher D. Pellegrino of Springfield, has since filed initial arguments in the appeal to the full court, and an answering brief from the governor's attorney is expected by July 31.

"That's a good question," Pellegrino said Wednesday when asked if Rota's nomination would have any effect on McCarthy's appeal.

There is no court injunction preventing the governor from making another nomination to the same position, Pellegrino said, but added, "I think it certainly would complicate the matter if the Supreme Judicial Court agrees with Mr. McCarthy."

The suit was filed in July 2013 against Gov. Patrick and Secretary of State William Galvin, with McCarthy seeking to have them affirm his nomination to the bench, even though the Governor's Council twice voted against him.

Following a request to the governor to confirm McCarthy's nomination, based on an unusual council voting sequence, Patrick announced in April that he could find no legal grounds to do so.

McCarthy and his supporters argued that a Governor's Council member had changed her initial vote on his nomination from abstaining to one in his favor, thereby breaking a tie vote and approving McCarthy as a judge.

In December 2013, Supreme Judicial Court Justice Margot Botsford, who heard the suit individually, granted a motion from the defendants to dismiss McCarthy's suit. He now is appealing that ruling to the full court.

The lawsuit focuses on a September 2012 meeting of the council. The board's vote on McCarthy's nomination ended in a 3-3 tie, with Councilor Mary Ellen Manning abstaining.

However, on Oct. 17, 2012, Manning submitted written instructions to the council office in Boston that she wanted to change her vote to confirm McCarthy, providing what his supporters contend was a 4-3 vote margin.

Patrick concluded in April 2013 that it would set "a dangerous precedent" if a councilor could change a vote after and outside a formal meeting. In her ruling in December, Botsford agreed. She said Manning's written instructions to alter her vote were "not enough" to record a change.

In the suit, Pellegrino argued that the governor did not need to resubmit the nomination because McCarthy was already given "the advice and consent" of the council when Manning changed her vote.

McCarthy is an attorney with George, DeGregorio, Massimiano & McCarthy in Pittsfield. He also served as city solicitor in Pittsfield and as an assistant district attorney.

To reach Jim Therrien:


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