BOSTON (State House News Service) - A shorthanded Governor's Council on Wednesday grilled Claudia Abreau, Gov. Deval Patrick's nominee for a lifetime post as clerk magistrate of Taunton District Court, about her knowledge of the bail process, her political connections and her long-term career plans, and largely appeared supportive of her qualifications for the job.
"I think you are very well qualified," said Councilor Terrence Kennedy, a Democrat from Lynnfield, one of eight councilors who could vote on Abreau's nomination as early as next week.
Councilor Marilyn Devaney said Abreau's colleagues in Taunton praised her for her legal knowledge and she said she appreciated Abreau's 12 years experience as an assistant clerk magistrate.
As they heaped praise on Abreau, councilors, who have often engaged in bitter arguments or bickering over various judicial nominees and council proceedings, light-heartedly noted the contrast.
"I think this hearing is too calm," Councilor Jennie Caisse, an Oxford Republican, said. "We have to live up to our reputation."
"When you're qualified, they're easy," Manning replied.
Abreau, 49, is hoping the council elevates her to the permanent clerk magistrate's position, which has been vacant since 2007. She has worked as an assistant clerk magistrate in the court since 1999. The UMass and Suffolk Law School graduate said she and the court's acting clerk magistrate – Jody Menard-Parece – are performing duties previously conducted by six people.
Prior to her work at Taunton District Court, Abreau worked for nine years as an associate at the law offices of Ephraim Horvitz in Fall River.
Abreau rejected the notion that any political connections helped her win the governor's nomination to the job, noting that she has never made political contributions to the governor, lieutenant governor or anyone on the Governor's Council.
"I'm not a political person," she said.
Councilor Mary-Ellen Manning wondered whether Abreau knew or supported Carole Fiola, a previous Governor's Councilor from Fall River. Abreau said she did not.
"Never met the woman," Abreau said.
Manning also wondered about Abreau's fitness to preside in court for "two, perhaps three generations" and noted that she prefers clerk magistrates who are older and boast more "life experience."
"I like that you think I'm young," Abreau said, adding, "I don't think my age in any way hinders my ability to deal with people of all ages. That's one of my strongest assets. I make people feel comfortable when they're with me. I give them a fair hearing. I think I have a strong base and a strong foundation."
"You would never regret voting for my confirmation," Abreau continued. "I think it's a vote you would be proud of."
Abreau added that she has no plans to work for decades.
"I can tell you, I won't be there to 95," she said. "I think I would like to put in my years, do good while I can but at the same time go out and live my life, enjoy my family, grandchildren. I don't have any inclination to be in a position for 30 years. That would make me 79 … My personal opinion is at 79 I will be living my life with my family and children and grandchildren."
Councilor Caissie asked Abreau about her knowledge of the bail system and seemed pleased when Abreau said she would notify crime victims when an alleged perpetrator is released into the community. Caissie also wondered about Abreau's demeanor as a manager.
"My management style is low key," Abreau said. "I don't think adding any more stress to a stressful environment is helpful."
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