BOSTON (State House News Service) – With the lieutenant governor’s family members and a councilor’s pet Scottie dog in the chamber, the Governor’s Council sped through Gov. Charlie Baker’s final judicial nominees Tuesday, more than a week before the term ends.
Baker’s final appointee to cross the finish line was Councilor Robert Jubinville, who for the past decade has served on the panel that decides whether to approve judicial candidates. Baker tapped the Milton Democrat earlier this month for a lifetime appointment as clerk magistrate of Framingham District Court, a vacant position that had not been publicly posted.
The council on Tuesday also confirmed former Rep. Harold Naughton (6-1) and labor lawyer Kareem Morgan (8-0) to the District Court bench, Jennifer Lennon as clerk magistrate of Marlborough District Court (8-0), and Rachel Hickey as clerk magistrate of Ipswich District Court (8-0). Industrial Accident Reviewing Board members Bernard Fabricant and Martin Long were unanimously reappointed for terms extending into 2028 and 2029, respectively.
It wasn’t advertised as the final council assembly of 2022, but farewell speeches and thank-yous were doled out, along with large autographed group portraits of the council sitting with Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito. Polito’s husband and children were present, as was retiring Councilor Mary Hurley’s canine companion, who became familiar to council observers during the pandemic for his occasional interruptions on WebEx.
Casting her vote for Jubinville, Hurley noted that it was her “last official act.” After the vote, Polito said it was “my final act, as well.”
Jubinville was confirmed to the clerkship 6-1, with his colleague Councilor Marilyn Petitto Devaney dissenting. Devaney called Jubinville “qualified” during his public interview, but said she viewed confirming a councilor to a court posting as a “conflict of interest.”
“If he resigned [from the council], I would have voted for him,” Devaney told the News Service after Tuesday’s session.
Jubinville’s other colleagues rose in succession to praise his various attributes. One, Councilor Christopher Iannella Jr., pointed his praise back in Devaney’s direction and said Jubinville had helped gather her nomination signatures when she had a deficit around six years ago.
“We’re at the coffee shop, he says, ‘I got a call from Councilor Devaney. We gotta help her, she’s panicking.’ And you know what Bob did? What a man of compassion. He convinced me, not once — on two different cycles, you better believe it — and you know how hard it is to get signatures. And Bob and I, especially Bob, put her over the top,” Iannella said, adding, “And you know what? He’s a decent, good person.”
Councilor Paul DePalo of Worcester said he was voting for Jubinville “despite the unusual situation” of the nominee serving on the council because he is “eminently qualified.”
As for Councilor Joseph Ferreira, Jubinville famously called him a “bootlicker” and “rubber stamp” during a heated council debate in 2017. But Ferreira bears no grudge, he said.
“Bob and I have had some very heated arguments in this very chamber,” Ferreira said as laughter broke out in the chamber Tuesday. “It’s been a little bit public. But is he qualified? Exceptionally well. Does he have the right temperament and empathy for people? He does. And that’s why he has my vote today.”
Jubinville exited the chamber while the council considered his new job.
He told the News Service he thinks he will start in Framingham District Court on Jan. 3 and was not sure about when he would officially leave the council, which is part of the Executive Branch.
Nearly 200,000 voters in Council District 2 just reelected Jubinville this fall to serve another two-year term, which is set to begin Jan. 5. His opponent, Republican Dashe Videira of Franklin, garnered 112,941 votes.
Those thousands of constituents could be left without representation on the council for an entire term unless the Legislature steps in. Filling council vacancies falls to the House and Senate, which can elect a new councilor (who resides in the district) by agreeing on concurrent votes.
Asked whether the Legislature should fill his seat, Jubinville deferred to the lawmakers.
“That’s their prerogative to do what they wish,” he said.
The council suspended rules in order to vote on Naughton (for the District Court bench) and Hickey (for Ipswich magistrate), who were given their public hearings earlier Tuesday. Councilors customarily space hearings and votes a week apart.
The motion to vote immediately on Naughton drew opposition from Councilors Eileen Duff and Paul DePalo. Duff ultimately voted against the Clinton Democrat’s confirmation to the bench, while DePalo voted “present.”
Naughton to District Court
Baker nominated Naughton to fill Judge Margaret Guzman’s seat, though Guzman has been tied up in the approval process for a federal judgeship. Her nomination is still sitting on the U.S. Senate Calendar, and the U.S. Senate is done with considering nominations for the year, according to Bloomberg Law.
Naughton was joined at his early-afternoon interview by most of his children, his “dear friend” former State Police officer and Clerk Magistrate Ken Halloran, Rep. Jamie Murphy, former Rep. Robert Rice, and Clinton District Court Presiding Justice Dennis Sargent.
Sargent, who has known Naughton for decades, called him “even-tempered, thoughtful, and respectful” and said he exhibits “common sense and wisdom.”
Ferreira said Naughton had an “impeccable” record, Iannella complimented his “really impressive” resume, and Devaney said she had long “been a fan” of his.
A 1991 Suffolk Law graduate, Naughton co-chaired the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee for a decade during his service in the House and simultaneously operated Naughton Law Office in Clinton where he handled criminal defense and civil litigation.
Of his decision in 2020 not to seek reelection to his House seat, Naughton told councilors it “was the right time” and he was presented with a “great opportunity” to join his current New York-based law firm, Napoli Shkolnik PLLC.
Duff quizzed him on his future aspirations beyond the judgeship.
“What are you thinking of? Maybe you’ll teach?” Duff asked.
Naughton replied that he has “always enjoyed” teaching and would “look at something like that.”
Duff also asked for more information about Naughton’s service as an officer in the Army Judge Advocate General Corps, which included time deployed in the Middle East.
Naughton said he was a “law of armed conflict advisor” and said he advised commanders in the field on “proportionality, and use of force, whether or not the amount of force you’re going to use against an enemy is appropriate when you can attack an enemy when you can use deadly force.”
He also told councilors that during his deployments he “trained judges and created courts” in Baghdad, Kandahar, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo — “all in an effort to instill a sense of due process in parts of the world that have seldom seen it.”
Back home, he said he has represented more than 1,000 clients, and handled District Court cases “well into the high hundreds” between his time as a prosecutor and in private practice.
Referring to the District Court, Naughton said: “I feel deeply that this venue can have a profound and immediate impact on the lives of litigants, victims, plaintiffs, defendants, and witnesses, as well as the communities that each one serves.”
Closing Out 2022
Hurley opened the council session with a prayer, thanking God for “all of the bounty that I have been the beneficiary of over my entire lifetime.”
In a farewell speech later in the meeting, the former judge and mayor complimented Polito for her “calm, cool, and respectful responses under the most ignominious circumstances” and thanked the administration for giving attention to Western Massachusetts, her home region.
In Jubinville’s farewell remarks at the end of the session, he reflected on the “great pleasure and honor” of serving on the council.
“Look, at times we didn’t agree on things, but I don’t know of any deliberative body in this State House or any other state house that haven’t had their ups and downs,” he said. “But we came into it and we got together and we put those things aside, and I consider you all my very close friends.”
Polito, also preparing for her own exit from the State House, emphasized the importance of the council process.
“This is where the public gets to see how these individuals perform in an interview, what their character is, what their experience is, and participate should they wish to weigh in with all of you,” the Shrewsbury Republican said, adding that “this process over eight years has worked.”
Ferreira complimented Polito on a “tremendous job” with more than 250 judges confirmed to the bench and said it felt “surreal” that eight years had passed.
“She’s shaped the Judiciary for decades to come, with the governor, and I just can’t say enough good words about it and what a pleasure it’s been to work with you,” the South Coast Democrat said to Polito and her family.