(The following letter by Marilyn M. Petitto Devaney originally appeared in the Weston Town Crier Newspaper last week. She is a member of the Governor’s Council, which is tasked, among other things, with recording consent and advice on judicial nominees.)
To The Editor:
As Governor’s Councilor, I must address some very misleading information concerning Joseph Berman’s nomination for Superior Court judgeship. I take no joy in this.
Following Mr. Berman’s’ Nov. 13 hearing, five of eight councilors advised Gov. Deval Patrick in writing that we would vote against Mr. Berman’s nomination. The governor has not allowed the vote to be taken for three months now.
Councilor Robert Jubinville asked Mr. Berman, who was under oath, whether he had contacted any official or candidate to lobby the Councilors on his behalf, including anyone on his $110,000 political donor list. He replied “no.” The question was asked again. Mr. Berman replied, “Absolutely not.”
When questioned again by Councilor Jen Caissie, Mr. Berman replied, “Oh, I didn’t know you meant today.” He admitted calling Congressional candidate Katherine Clark that very morning to call Councilors Michael Albano and Jubinville. Why the lies? Honesty is paramount for a judge. Mr. Berman has contributed $3,600 to Ms. Clark. Mr. Berman stated Sen. Clark agreed to make calls.
After Mr. Berman was not approved for a District Court judgeship by the Judicial Nominating Commission in 2004, he gave $110,000 in campaign contributions to state and federal candidates, in addition to fundraising right up to the present application for Superior Court. The timing and size of these contributions have understandably created a public perception of improper influence in his pursuit of a judgeship.
Mr. Berman lacks criminal trial experience in Superior Court. He has done nothing to educate himself on criminal law, as he admitted. Councilor Jubinville asked how many trials he has had in District Court. He replied, “I think I had one or two.”
The majority of Councilors believe Mr. Berman’s deportment at the hearing was unacceptable for a judge.
Councilor Jubinville asked Mr. Berman, “In your opinion, is drug addiction medical or criminal?” Mr. Berman shot back sarcastically, “I’m not a doctor,” and added, ”No one in my family is drug addicted.” Respectful demeanor and composed temperament on the bench are essential. Mr. Berman’s lack of knowledge and experience in this crucial legal area is of significant concern to council majority.
When nominees appear before the council, their presentation concerns their qualification to be a judge. Mr. Berman is the only nominee who boasted about his political organizational skills. He spoke about running offices of candidates, organizing fundraising, organizing workers, “strategizing with people.”
Are political skills a quality to look for in a judge? Mr. Berman has definitely proven his political skills in his ongoing politicking for this judgeship. I know of people he has lobbied. However, solid and relevant legal experience, not campaign experience, is what the public and Governor’s Councilors expect in a judge.
Regarding National Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and Armenian Genocide recognition, I fault Mr. Berman, 19-year member of the ADL New England and national commissioner, for never publicly speaking out against the national ADL’s direct collaboration with the Turkish government against genocide recognition long before, during and after the issue broke in 2007, as he acknowledged at his hearing.
On August 14, 2007, after learning of ADL’s years of successful lobbying in defeating Congressional resolutions recognizing the Armenian Genocide, I authored a proclamation to withdraw Watertown from the ADL’s “No Place for Hate” program. I won the support of many communities that also withdrew, including Newton. Mayor David Cohen publicly spoke out strongly against the ADL’s discrimination against the Armenians.
Mr. Berman neither spoke out publicly nor resigned. New England ADL Director Andrew Tarsy spoke out publicly and honestly and as a result was fired. By contrast, Mr. Berman received leadership awards from the ADL.
In 2007, prominent ADL members resigned, including Stewart L. Cohen and Boston City Councilor Mike Ross, whose father survived concentration camps in the Holocaust. Many principled Jewish Americans (including rabbis) spoke out publicly as well. I stated that if I was a member of an organization that opposed a Holocaust resolution and did not recognize it as a holocaust I would resign.
The national ADL has still not unambiguously acknowledged the Armenian Genocide. New England ADL Director Derek Shulman said in 2012 that the ADL will not support a Congressional resolution on the Armenian Genocide.
Finally, some media took my comment about the ADL out of context. Please listen to the tape of the hearing at the Governor’s Council office. At the conclusion of the hearing, I stated that though I have a “bias” against the ADL for depriving the Armenians of their history, I would have an “open mind regarding Mr. Berman.”
I am proud of the unbiased attention and respect that Councilors and I have for nominees such as Mr. Berman. Thank you.
Marilyn M. Petitto Devaney