BOSTON (SHNS) – Andrew Abdella, the governor’s pick for a Worcester District Court judgeship, won confirmation Wednesday by the Governor’s Council despite concerns over his lack of criminal law experience.
Abdella, who has spent the past decade working as general counsel in Worcester County Sheriff Lew Envangelidis’ office, will fill the District Court seat vacated by retired Judge Arthur Haley. Before the sheriff’s office, Abdella worked at Worcester City Hall as an assistant solicitor after graduating law school.
The council voted 6-2 to confirm his nomination, with Councilors Marilyn Devaney and Mary Hurley, who is a former judge, voting against him. The vote came a week after Hurley grilled Abdella about his lack of experience with criminal matters, including restraining orders, and his failure to study up on criminal law prior to his nomination and confirmation hearing.
Hurley did not speak prior to the vote Wednesday, but Devaney voiced similar concerns.
“It’s hard to vote against a person you like, but he’s not prepared to be a judge,” Devaney said.
Abdella’s courtroom experience has primarily centered around cases involving civil rights, medical malpractice, and personal injury, and in the sheriff’s office he also supervised a team of 60 employees and six mid-level managers overseeing the legal, grants, maintenance, employee wellness, and inmate programs and the after-incarceration services departments.
Councilor Robert Jubinville said he once thought criminal experience was the “end-all-and-be-all” and wouldn’t vote for any nominee that didn’t have it, but he said the late George Cronin, a former councilor and council administrator, helped him come to value other traits.
“I like people with criminal experience, but it’s not the only thing I look for,” Jubinville said. “I look for somebody that is compassionate, has commonsense and will be kind and compassionate to the citizens of this commonwealth. I put that above anything else in a judge, especially in a district court.”
Jubinville also said Abdella’s understanding of the corrections system will be valuable on the bench, as will his civil experience in a court in Worcester that handles a high volume of civil cases.
“I believe if they’re going to ask for jail time, they should at least know what it’s like to send a citizen of this commonwealth into those cages,” Jubinville said, speaking of district attorneys and other court professionals. “He definitely has that experience for a long time.”
Councilor Joseph Ferreira said Evangelidis had “nothing but rave reviews” for Abdella when he spoke to the sheriff about the nominee, and he said the clerk of the Worcester District Court told him a lot of new judges lack civil experience and therefore “shirk the civil session.”
Jubinville also said he was assured by people at the court that Worcester handles the most civil cases in the state and someone with Abdella’s background would start out handling civil matters for “some time” until he can get adjusted to criminal procedures.
“This candidate has a good sense of civil law,” the Milton Democrat said.
Abdella graduated in 1999 from Holy Cross, and earned his law degree from Suffolk University. After school, he started in the city solicitor’s office in Worcester. His father, Charles Abdella, was also a district court judge, but is retired now.
The elder Abdella has donated $2,775 to Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito since 2014, and $2,500 to Evangelidis over the past five years.
Devaney also took issue with the fact that she said Abdella did not disclose on his application that he had previously applied for the position of clerk magistrate in the Dudley District Court, a job that ultimately went to former Governor’s Councilor Jennie Caissie.
Devaney called it a “sin of omission.”