BOSTON (SHNS) – The elected panel that votes on Gov. Charlie Baker’s judicial nominees reactivated its public livestream Wednesday, after live video of meetings in the shuttered State House was abruptly disabled last week.
The Governor’s Council’s YouTube channel sprang back to life around 10:30 a.m. to broadcast an interview with District Court Judge Cathleen Campbell, who was questioned by councilors on her nomination to the Superior Court. After the hearing adjourned, Councilor Robert Jubinville remarked that the YouTube stream had resumed and told the News Service that in his opinion there was “no good reason” not to continue the broadcasts.
Members of the public were then asked to clear out of the chamber so the council could hold a private meeting at 12:30 p.m. with Robert Ross, the governor’s chief legal counsel. According to emails obtained by the News Service, the meeting was called to discuss “the council’s decision” on how it “wishes to proceed going forward with assemblies and hearings” and to “work out the logistics.”
Last week’s hearing and assembly were not generally accessible to the public because of the disabled video stream, and there was no clear answer about whose decision took the meeting offline. Council meetings have been public affairs for decades by custom, but not by right.
The Supreme Judicial Court ruled in a 1992 decision (Pineo v. Executive Council) that the open meeting law is “inapplicable” to Governor’s Council meetings “as a matter of constitutional law.”
Public bodies abruptly shifted to livestreamed meetings and remote participation at meetings when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, a change that supporters have applauded because it has made government meetings more easily acccessible to people without requiring them to travel.