PITTSFIELD — An editorial in a trade publication for attorneys across the state joined a chorus of rebuke against District Attorney Andrea Harrington for asking the Trial Court leadership last month to stop a district court judge from hearing criminal cases, saying Harrington’s attempt appears to have been politically motivated.
“This approach seems primarily designed to score points with voters, since Harrington is a first-term district attorney up for re-election next year,” the authors wrote of Harrington’s letter to the state’s Trial Court leadership about Central Berkshire District Court Judge Jennifer Tyne.
The June 17 editorial, “DA oversteps in critique of judge,” said that asking the three Trial Court leaders to remove criminal cases from Tyne’s purview is an “extreme step” and “not appropriate.”
In her letter about Judge Tyne, the DA bypassed her right in particular cases to pursue an appeal or file a motion to recuse, the editorial said.
Harrington also could have filed a complaint to the Commission on Judicial Conduct.
“But what she should not do is attempt an end-run around the process,” the editorial said, also noting that it is “not unusual for a prosecutor to disagree with a judge’s decisions.”
Harrington’s office did not respond to questions about issues raised in the editorial.
In an earlier statement, Harrington said, “There are limited options to address concerns with judges, but it is my responsibility to advocate for the compassionate treatment of parties and attorneys in the justice system.”
A board representing the state’s largest organization of criminal defense lawyers has written a scathing letter to Berkshire District Attorney…
Harrington raised concerns about Tyne in a May 14 letter to Paul C. Dawley, the chief justice of the state’s district court system, and two other judges. Citing Tyne’s handling of a number of criminal cases, Harrington called Tyne a “significant threat to public safety” and asked Dawley to stop her from hearing criminal cases in Berkshire County.
Harrington criticized Tyne for what she called the judge’s history of “dangerous rulings and hostile treatment of victims and prosecutors” in the Berkshire District Attorney’s Office.
But Dawley outright dismissed Harrington’s claims after conducting a “full and thorough review” that involved listening to audio recordings of hearings Harrington cited in support of her positions. In a statement to The Eagle, Dawley said there was “no factual basis” to support the “serious allegations” Harrington had lodged.
Dawley called Harrington’s claims “unsubstantiated” and said his “review of Judge Tyne’s handling of each of the cases cited in the letter reflects careful and thoughtful analysis on her part and was properly within the bounds of lawful judicial discretion.”
Harrington’s move was met by criticism from the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys, which called her attempt “unethical.” The deputy chief counsel for the Public Defender Division of the Committee for Public Counsel Services has said Harrington’s removal request “sends a message to other judges that they need to fall in line or else face an attack on their livelihood.”
Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly is a trade publication that reaches 17,000 subscribers, according to Advertising Director Scott Ziegler. Founded in 1972, the publication refers to itself as the “top source of legal information for practicing attorneys.”
Harrington, who is up for reelection in 2022, was sworn into office on Jan 1, 2019. In 2016, she made a bid for the state Senate seat now held by Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, who is considering a possible run for statewide office, including lieutenant governor.
Donations to her Harrington’s campaign increased on June 14, the same day she wrote a letter to her supporters in which she attacked The Eagle for “biased reporting” for writing about her attempt to have Tyne barred from presiding over criminal cases in the county.
The trade publication’s editorial isn’t the first to accuse Harrington of playing politics. Former employees of the DA’s Office have criticized the office’s “campaign culture,” saying it is designed to harness a progressive platform for political success rather than working toward substantive execution of that platform.
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