Ties to ADL imperil Patrick judge nominee

Governor postpones vote he was about to lose

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

Saying he hadn’t had a chance to work on rounding up votes to ensure confirmation, Gov. Deval Patrick prevented the Governor’s Council from voting on judicial nominee Joseph Berman, the governor’s pick for a Superior Court judgeship.

Councilor Marilyn Devaney, who criticized Berman during his confirmation hearing last week for being part of an organization that refuses to recognize the Armenian genocide, urged the governor not to postpone the vote.

“I have great respect for you, but I object to this,” Devaney said to Patrick, adding she had a letter from five councilors, a majority of the eight-member panel, who planned to vote against Berman’s confirmation. “I find no joy in this governor, but it is the right thing to do,” she said.

Councilor Robert Jubinville also asked Patrick to reconsider postponing, but the governor responded: “Thank you. I’m going to postpone the vote.”

Berman came under fire last Wednesday for his membership in the Anti-Defamation League, $110,000 in campaign contributions, and his representation of a prisoner at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

Berman is a board member of the New England chapter of the ADL. Devaney called the ADL hypocritical because it refuses to recognize the Armenian genocide by the Turks. She said she has a bias against the ADL that she would be unable to put aside when considering the nominee.

Berman, a Weston resident who is a partner at the Boston law firm Looney & Grossman, was questioned for more than four hours by the council last week. He graduated from Dartmouth College and received his law degree from The University of Michigan Law School. His practice focuses on commercial litigation, trying several cases in Superior Court each year.

Jeffrey Robbins, an attorney at the Boston law firm Mintz Levin and a member of the ADL, said that Devaney and Berman “are exactly in accord,” on the Armenian genocide, saying Berman led the effort of the New England chapter in demanding the national organization change its position.

Berman, 49, told councilors he was tempted to resign from the ADL, but changed his mind because the organization does great work in so many other areas. He thought one commission member resigning would not make a difference, and decided to stay and work for change from the inside.

Councilor Jennie Caissie had broader concerns about the ADL. She said she objected to letters the ADL writes to the US Senate Judiciary Committee prior to judicial candidate hearings. Caissie called the letters “bona fide litmus tests” on issues ranging from abortion to the First Amendment. She said she is troubled by the positions of the ADL, and criticized Berman for not withdrawing from the group.

Caissie said she was concerned Berman would be an activist judge.

Caissie asked why the governor was postponing. “I don’t know of any reason why this nominee should not be voted on today,” she said. “This is breaking with the council’s precedence.”

Patrick said the constitution gave him the authority to set the agenda and “to bring forth for you the votes when I’m ready for those votes to be taken.” He said the council will have the chance to vote.

“I am going to work hard to get the votes. I have not had an opportunity to do that,” Patrick said. “I think this is a candidate who is more than ready to serve.”

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Devaney said she thinks the council members will not change their minds. “To prolong this serves no purpose,” she said.

Councilor Terrence Kennedy said he supported Berman, but added he did not think the vote would change over the next week.