Judge nominee rejected for fibs about his old job

Former partners say he was fired 20 years ago

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

AT HIS LAST MEETING presiding over the Governor’s Council, outgoing Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray looked on as the council voted against the Patrick administration’s latest nominee for district court judge in Worcester.

Gov. Deval Patrick made a last-minute decision to return to the State House on Wednesday from western Massachusetts where he had been working after the Memorial Day weekend in case he needed to preside to allow Murray to cast a tie-breaking vote. There was no tie, with the council voting 4-3 against Attorney Stephen Anderson.

Murray plans to step down from the administration after Sunday to become the next president of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, leaving the duty of presiding over the Governor’s Council to Patrick.

Councilors opposed to Anderson, an insurance defense lawyer, said he does not have any criminal experience, and some questioned his integrity after two former law partners testified during his confirmation hearing last week that he was not truthful on his judicial application.

Attorneys Gerard Laurence and Paul O’Connor said Anderson made false statements concerning his reasons for leaving their firm 20 years ago. During a five-hour confirmation hearing, the two attorneys told councilors Anderson was fired for not fulfilling his work responsibilities as a partner.

“He was playing a lot of golf during the afternoon, weather permitting, which was not for business development or client relations. He was not making up the missed time with work in the evening, early morning or weekends,” Laurence and O’Connor wrote after the hearing in a letter to the council obtained by the News Service.

“He was offloading work he should have been doing to junior lawyers who had their own work loads. We lost two staff members who attributed their departure to his arrogant, superior attitude,” they wrote.

Anderson told councilors he left his partnership for a new job because the firm was struggling. The firm lost its largest client, Aetna Casualty & Surety Company, he said. He worked at the law firm Milton, Laurence and Dixon from 1978 to 1994, and became a partner in 1982.

“After the loss of this client, Attorney Laurence and I had vastly differing opinions on the future of the firm and how to keep it viable,” Anderson wrote in a letter to the Governor’s Council. “It was no secret that as a result of losing the Aetna business, the partnership had tough economic times. We experienced several “payless” paydays and were not able to make regular contributions to our 401K retirement account. This was, to say the least, a very stressful period.”

Councilor Robert Jubinville, who voted against Anderson, said he was not qualified for the district court, and questioned why the Patrick administration nominated him.

Councilor Jennie Caissie, a Republican from Oxford, said it was difficult for her to vote against someone from her district, but she said she thinks Anderson does not have the criminal experience necessary to sit on the district court bench where the majority of the cases are criminal or restraining orders.

“I cannot and will not jeopardize public safety by voting for a nominee who has no experience,” Caissie said.

Caissie called Anderson a “horrible fit” for the district court because all of his experience is in civil defense. The argument over whether Anderson was truthful in his description of why he left his previous law firm did not weigh into her decision as heavily as his legal experience, she said.

Before voting no, Councilor Marilyn Devaney said, “Basically, I cannot support someone who is not truthful.”

“How important was it for Mr. Anderson to become a judge that he would lie for it?” Devaney said.

Councilor Eileen Duff also voted no. Councilors Terrence Kennedy, Oliver Cipollini and Christopher Iannella voted in favor of Anderson.

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Kennedy told the News Service he was unconvinced Anderson lied about being discharged from the firm, saying he believes Anderson left his partnership.

“I put no credence in their testimony at all,” he said before the vote.