MA: Effort to remove by bill of address 4 justices of Supreme Judicial Court introduced

Last week a Massachusetts Representative introduced, at the request of a constituent, HB 2172 a “bill of address” for the removal of Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Roderick L. Ireland and justices Francis X. Spina, Judith A. Cowin, and Robert J. Cordy.

There is no specific reasoning for the effort to remove these four justices in particular. The last such effort in Massachusetts occurred in 2004 and 2005 where bills of address were introduced against the justices that ruled in favor of same-sex marriage (Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health, 798 N.E.2d 941 (Mass. 2003)). However, justices Cordy and Spina had dissents in those cases, while (then associate justice) Ireland and Cowin voted in favor.

Under the Massachusetts constitution, removal by bill of address requires only a majority of both the House and Senate, followed by the approval of the Governor and Governor’s Council. Where impeachment would require accusations of “misconduct and mal-administration”, bills of address do not require such findings.

The bill is currently pending before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary.

9 thoughts on “MA: Effort to remove by bill of address 4 justices of Supreme Judicial Court introduced”

  1. House, No. 2172, a so-called “bill of address,” is my petition. My petition has nothing whatsoever to do with the Goodridge decision. I was compelled to file the petition based upon the Supreme Judicial Court’s rulings in Goodrow v. Lane Bryant, Inc., 432 Mass. 165 (2000), and Wiedmann v. Bradford Group, Inc., 444 Mass. 698 (2005) relative to the private right of action provisions of the state’s wage and hour laws.

    Specifically, in Goodrow the SJC ruled that under the private right of action provision of the Massachusetts overtime statute as then appearing in the General Laws (Section 1B of Chapter 151 of the General Laws as amended by Section 183 of Chapter 110 of the Acts of 1993) treble damages could only be awarded at the discretion of the trial judge based upon proof that an employer’s conduct in committing a violation had been “outrageous, because of the defendant’s evil motive or his reckless indifference to the rights of others,” the same burden of proof placed upon plaintiffs in cases where so-called “punitive damages” are permitted by statute. This is an obvious and outrageous lie. The statute as it was amended in 1993 by its plain language clearly did not contain any provision that required a showing by the plaintiff of a higher degree of culpability by the defendant than that sufficient to ground simple liability in order for the plaintiff to be awarded treble damages. In ruling as they did in their Goodrow decision the justices clearly violated their constitutional mandate – specifically, Article XXX of Part the First of the Massachusetts Constitution, which mandates the separation of powers; Massachusetts law – specifically, Section 6, Third, of Chapter 4 of the General Laws of Massachusetts, the law governing the construction of statutes; and the Supreme Judicial Court’s own clearly articulated and long-settled precedent – see, e.g., International Fidelity Ins. Co. v. Wilson, 387 Mass. 841, 853-858 (1983), and Mellor v. Berman, 390 Mass. 275, 282 n. 11 (1983). The practical effect of the Goodrow decision was to gut the private remedies of, and hence the effective enforcement of, Massachusetts’ minimum wage and overtime statutes.

    In Wiedmann the SJC made the same ruling with respect to the private right of action provision of the Massachusetts wage payment law, Section 148 of Chapter 149 of the General Laws (commonly referred to as the “Wage Act”), which was added to Section 150 of that chapter by Section 182 of Chapter 110 of the Acts of 1993. As with the Goodrow decision, the Wiedmann ruling is an obvious lie, and it had the same devastating effect on the enforcement of the Wage Act and numerous other substantive provisions of the state’s wage and hour laws.

    This is not mere judicial activism; this is judicial corruption. Indeed, it goes beyond corruption and into a realm that is truly horrifying to contemplate, never mind actually witness, as it is behavior that attacks the very foundation of democratic government and, hence, justice and the rule of law here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. If the justices who participated in the Goodrow and Wiedmann decisions really believed that it was a bad idea for the Massachusetts Legislature to have enacted private remedies that mandated treble damages for all violations, then they should have resigned from their offices and run for a seat in the Legislature; and, if elected, they could have tried to get legislation passed to change the law according to their liking. But these so-called justices didn’t do that. Instead, they ruled by fiat that the law meant something other than what its plain language actually said, which should be intolerable in any functioning democracy. (The Court’s grammar lesson regarding the use of modal auxiliary verbs is not just a lie, it’s an embarrassment.) The fact that anyone who has chosen to prosecute a private civil action under the treble damages provisions of the wage and hour laws as those provisions were originally enacted, instead of relying upon the public prosecutorial resources of the Commonwealth, and has proven in a court of law a loss of wages, of any amount, has ever been denied an automatic award of treble damages is a travesty of justice that is simply beyond the pale and an indelible stain upon democracy and the rule of law in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

    And so, at the risk of considerable ridicule and scorn (or, at the very least, simply being ignored), I have taken it upon myself to try to do something about this outrageous malfeasance by certain justices of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. (The justices named in my petition really should be impeached, but, as a private individual, I decided that the bill of address mechanism and the fact that the Massachusetts Constitution allows citizens of the Commonwealth to file bills by request was the best way for me to proceed.)

    I have submitted detailed written testimony to the Joint Committee on the Judiciary in support of House, No. 2172 (an abridged version of which is posted at and gave oral testimony in support of the bill to the committee on July 6, 2011. The bill currently remains in committee.

  2. This is pretty serious business actually. I was also familiar with this through the skycap wage lawsuit a couple years ago. The back and forth back scratching of corporate lawyers, justices and politicians. It’s pretty outrageous. If only people REALLY knew that some of their democratic (Big D democrat meaning the party) representatives were really just a bunch of corporate lawyers looking out for their cronies, they’d be shocked. I’m glad you’re doing this. Somebody needs a wake up call here. Treble demages is treble damage. Required. Past, present and future! This would be great fodder for the next election cycle.

  3. Of course you know JP is one of Bill Okerman’s sockpuppets. He uses an old email address to make it seem JP is a completely different person, but it is just Okerman trying to pretend people actually agree with him.

  4. Even though JP is not, in fact, me (which, of course, cannot be proven one way or the other by simply asserting so in a post to a blog), let’s assume for the sake of argument that JP is me. So what? Whether or not I agree with myself or there actually is someone who isn’t me who agrees with me, has no bearing whatsoever on the validity of my accusation. For that, one who is actually interested in the substance of my accusation has to take some initiative and look at the facts, which I have laid out at and summarized in my initial post to this blog. So “Anonymous,” if you really are interested in this issue, then forget about me and those (including me) who agree with me and take a look at the facts and decide for yourself.

  5. Throwing judges out of office for rendering a decision one party to the suit or one person does not like is asinine and a threat to fair and impartial courts. Imagine if southern Congressmen threatened to impeach or bill of address federal judges in Alabama and elsewhere that enforced desegregation orders. Grow up Bill/JP. Amd oh there is a way to prove Bill and JP are the same: the blog owner can look at the emails they both used and the IP addresses they posted from. I agree with Anonymous that it is probably just one lone guy trying to make himself sound bigger/better by make it appear others agree with him.

  6. I am not calling for the removal of these justices because they rendered a decision that I or someone else simply didn’t like. I am calling for their removal because I have incontrovertible proof that they clearly violated their constitutional mandate, state law, and their own court’s precedent in ruling as they did in their Goodrow and Wiedmann decisions with respect to the private right of action provisions of the state’s wage and hour laws. To not remove a judge or justice for such behavior would make a mockery of the whole idea of fair and impartial courts. That is why the impeachment and, in some jurisdictions, such as Massachusetts, the bill of address mechanisms were created in the first place. I would be very much against any attempt by any legislator anywhere in the country to threaten or to actually try to remove a judge in any jurisdiction for enforcing a lawful order.

    The reason I made my initial post to this blog is because the article about my bill correctly states that “[t]here is no specific reasoning [in the bill] for the effort to remove these four justices in particular” and then references the bill of address that was submitted with respect to the Goodridge decision, a decision that my bill has nothing whatsoever to do with. I, therefore, wanted to inform anyone who might come across the article, as I recently did, and might actually be interested in learning about the specific reasoning behind my effort.

  7. Bill/JP: “I am not calling for the removal of these justices because they rendered a decision that I or someone else simply didn’t like.”

    That is EXACTLY what you are doing. You disagree with the court’s opinion and YOU think in YOUR opinion that it violated the state constitution, was a “lie”, etc. That’s exactly the same argument Southerners made against Brown v. Board of Education when they tried to throw Earl Warren out. Impeachment is for high crimes and misdemeanors, not rendering a decision you just do not agree with, no matter how passionately.

    Sorry, but disagreeing with you is not an impeachable offense or one that should subject a judge to removal by bill of address.

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