Baker taps government attorneys for appeals, juvenile court

Boston Statehouse

BOSTON (SHNS) – Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday tapped the Norfolk district attorney’s general counsel and the acting general counsel of the Sex Offender Registry for judgeships, making a dent in the vacancy backlog as the process of minting new judges revs back into gear.

Baker picked Marguerite Grant, general counsel and director of training in the Norfolk DA’s office since 2014, for an open spot on the Appeals Court. She previously spent two years as an assistant district attorney in Norfolk County, focusing on homicide and sexual assault cases before state appellate courts, and 10 years as an ADA in Middlesex County. Grant has been a member of the Supreme Judicial Court’s Standing Advisory Committee on Massachusetts Rules of Criminal Procedure since 2019.

A Westwood resident and Stanford Law graduate, Grant’s career started as an intern in Attorney General Francis Bellotti’s office. She has taught at Harvard Extension School, Northeastern School of Law, and most recently at Suffolk Law School. She would fill the seat of Sydney Hanlon — also a former Norfolk ADA — who retired in June.

Grant’s hearing before the Governor’s Council is scheduled for Oct. 7 at 10 a.m. with Councilor Robert Jubinville presiding.

Also Wednesday, Baker nominated Joanna Rodriguez of Methuen to the Juvenile Court bench, filling a year-old vacancy occasioned by the retirement of Judge Mark Newman.

Rodriguez just started a new job last month as deputy general counsel and acting general counsel to the state Sex Offender Registry, according to her resume. She was also appointed a special assistant attorney general in August.

The Massachusetts School of Law alumna previously spent more than 10 years as an independent contractor for the Committee for Public Counsel Services practicing in Lawrence District and Lawrence Juvenile courts, and for 13 years has supervised federal election observers through the Federal Voting Rights Observer Program with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

The Governor’s Council did not schedule an interview for Rodriguez during its assembly Wednesday.

There are around three dozen current judicial vacancies in Massachusetts courts, according to a review of council records and the Judicial Nominating Commission website.

That number includes around 25 vacancies posted for the District Courts where the number of currently-seated judges is hovering around the maximum permissible by law. No more than 158 District Court judges can be seated at once, and there were 156 appointed as of Jan. 29, according to the JNC.

The usual stream of judicial nominations and hearings was put on hold for around three months this spring as the COVID-19 pandemic first swept Massachusetts, before Baker returned to the process in June.

Three other candidates currently pend before the council: Superior Court nominee Patrick Haggan and District Court circuit nominees Michelle Fentress and Robert Harnais.

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