Massachusetts: Senator wants 29-member “Judicial Accountability Commission” to examine selection and oversight of judges in the state

Judicial selection in Massachusetts is very close to the federal-style system of nomination/confirmation/life appointment. In the case of Massachusetts, the confirmation comes from the elected Governor’s Council, not the Senate, and life appointment is limited to a mandatory judicial retirement age of 70. Now, a member of the Massachusetts Senate wants a review of that system.

Under SB 870 as filed a Special Commission on Judicial Accountability would be created to look at the nomination, selection, appointment, and oversight of judges in the Commonwealth and to develop recommendations to improve accountability including reappointment standards.

The Commission would be made up of 29 members, the first 7 would be selected by elected officials

  • 3 appointed by the governor
  • 2 members of the House (1 picked by Speaker, other by minority leader)
  • 2 members of the Senate (1 picked by President, other by minority leader)

In addition to those 7, the president of 22 different bar associations (or the president’s designee) would be included

  1. Massachusetts Bar Association
  2. Asian American Lawyers Association of Massachusetts
  3. Barnstable Bar Association
  4. Berkshire County Bar Association
  5. Boston Bar Association
  6. Bristol County Bar Association
  7. Essex County Bar Association
  8. Franklin County Bar Association
  9. Hampden County Bar Association
  10. Hampshire County Bar Association
  11. League of Women Voters
  12. Massachusetts Association of Hispanic Attorneys
  13. Massachusetts Association of Women Lawyers
  14. Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association
  15. Massachusetts Judges Conference
  16. Massachusetts LGBTQ Bar Association
  17. Middlesex Bar Association
  18. Norfolk County Bar Association
  19. Plymouth County Bar Association
  20. Suffolk County Bar Association
  21. Woman’s Bar Association
  22. Worcester County Bar Association

SB 870 has been assigned to the Joint Committee on the Judiciary.