Gants v Conley: Time for a real debate?

The Boston Globe delivered an editorial spanking to Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley over the weekend for questioning the political activity of Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants.

Gants has been leading the charge for doing away with mandatory minimum sentencing in most cases, an issue that the Globe editorial page is also championing. The Globe says Conley went too far in criticizing Gants for his political activities on behalf of sentencing reform at a recent conference at Boston College Law School, and should dial it back.

“This is an issue that should be vigorously debated,” the Globe said. “And there is nothing untoward about the chief justice of the state’s top court playing a central role in that debate.”

Conley and Gants are the two chief protagonists in the simmering debate over sentencing reform, and the two have been sparring at a distance for some time. Gants went after the the state’s district attorneys about a year ago when he delivered the keynote address at a conference hosted by MassINC, the publisher of CommonWealth.

“Let us be honest: When some district attorneys say they fear judicial leniency, they really are saying that they do not want to relinquish to judges the power to impose sentences that minimum mandatory sentences give to prosecutors,” Gants said.

Conley appeared separately at that conference and spoke out against doing away with mandatory minimums, but at the more recent gathering at Boston College Law School (where Gants was again the keynote speaker) he addressed Gants’s point from a year ago more directly. He basically agreed with Gants that the real issue in the debate over mandatory minimum sentences is who should have discretion – the judges who hand out sentences or the prosecutors who file the charges and must decide whether to seek a mandatory minimum.

“My feeling is I’ve been doing this for 30 years. I’ve got a pretty good handle on who’s driving violence in our community. Judges don’t have that same handle, with all due respect,” Conley said. “Judges are more likely to make a significant mistake that could have a big impact on the community.”

Conley and Gants are articulate advocates for their positions. If we’re going to have a debate on sentencing reform, let’s have a real one, with the two officials squaring off face-to-face. CommonWealth would be happy to host the event.

–BRUCE MOHL


BEACON HILL

With his health assessment legislation, Michael Widmer says Gov. Charlie Baker is heading down the same path as his predecessor, former governor Deval Patrick, did with the tech tax. (CommonWealth)

Jim Stergios of the Pioneer Institute urges Baker and the Legislature to extend the Pacheco Law exemption at the MBTA. (CommonWealth)

The Supreme Judicial Court opens a casino can of worms by allowing Mohegan Sun to challenge the Massachusetts Gaming Commission’s selection of Wynn Resorts for the Greater Boston casino license. (CommonWealth)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Melrose Mayor Rob Dolan says he supports the concept of sanctuary cities but says the term is political, not operational, and doesn’t endorse the move to declare Melrose one. (Keller@Large)

Developers submit some interesting proposals for the redevelopment of the Worcester County Courthouse. (Worcester Magazine)

Donna McNamara, who became the first female lieutenant in the Stoughton Police Department two years ago, will become the department’s first women chief. (The Enterprise)

A local labor organization and two employees of the Fall River Housing Authority who are the focus of disciplinary action are seeking the ouster of a union representative from the housing board who they claim no longer lives in the city and is not affiliated with any union as required by law. (Herald News)

With today’s Adrian Walker offering, all three Boston Globe metro columnists have now had their say on the ridiculous St. Patrick’s Day Parade controversy that took the city on a nostalgia  tour to the bad old days. The Washington Post has a cringe-inducing story on the dust-up, complete with the usual overblown characterizations that come when national outlets take on a local issue. It includes this contorted jumble of corporeal metaphors: “if the parade is the backbone of Boston, then ‘Southie’ is at its beating heart.”

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is expected to come out with its scorecard on the GOP health care plan and here are some key pieces to watch for. (New York Times)

A female Texas state senator proposes satirical masturbation regulations for men to draw attention to the way male lawmakers write legislation about women’s health issues. (Governing)

ELECTIONS

The current crop of announced and would-be Democratic candidates for governor, writes the Globe’s Jim O’Sullivan, is not lighting a fire under party activists, who are looking for someone with some pizzaz to try to topple Gov. Charlie Baker. Someone like Attorney General Maura Healey, many of them are saying. The Herald’s Hillary Chabot takes up the same theme, with  Democratic pundits saying Baker is vulnerable but others expressing a lack of enthusiasm for the names that have surfaced so far.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

A planned increase in the prime interest rate would have a trillion-dollar impact on federal spending and the national debt. (National Review)

Bilingual workers are increasingly in demand, notwithstanding President Trump’s moves to limit immigration. (Boston Globe)

Microchip giant Intel has agreed to pay $15.3 billion to buy an Israeli company that makes sensors for self-driving vehicles. (New York Times)

EDUCATION

Massachusetts Maritime Academy administrators are seeking proposals for potential new student housing on Main Street in Bourne to accommodate the growing student population but town officials say the plan is the first they’ve heard of expansion and are concerned it could thwart renewal of the historic business zone. (Cape Cod Times)

Boston School Committee meetings are turning into marathon sessions. (Boston Globe)

PHILANTHROPY/NONPROFITS

The Globe reports on the the not-so-well-kept secret that former Massachusetts congressman Jim Shannon earned millions of dollars as the extraordinarily well-paid chief executive of the Quincy-based National Fire Protection Association.

A Fall River nonprofit in partnership with the YMCA is offering free “shower passes” to homeless people in the city. (Herald News)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

The head of a controversial proposed drug treatment center in Fall River says the planned facility would be an acceptable use at the site of a burned-down mill but zoning regulations appear to require a approval of a variance. (Herald News)

TRANSPORTATION

In the wake of the MBTA secretly forgiving more than $800,000 in winter-related fines assessed to Keolis, some Beacon Hill lawmakers are floating the idea of legislation to require the agency to notify the Legislature ahead of time of any plan to forgive fines levied against the T’s commuter rail operator. (Boston Herald)

We may be No. 1, but Massachusetts is definitely not tops in transportation, say Chris Dempsey and Jesse Mermell. (CommonWealth)

The T may shut down some commuter rail lines over weekends in the coming two years in order to more quickly install mandated safety improvements and help close budget gaps. (Boston Globe)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Another sign the offshore wind market is heating up: Two international developers ask the federal government to take bids on ocean tracts off the coast of Massachusetts and the government is moving forward. (CommonWealth)

CASINOS

A casino border war is brewing between Connecticut and Massachusetts. (Boston Globe)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Adding a further horrible dimension to the opioid addiction crisis, some addicts are being pulled into sex trafficking rings to support their habits. (Boston Herald)

Meet the Author

The Massachusetts State Police is riddled with allegations of intolerance and hostility toward minority, women, and gay officers, according to a Globe investigation of complaints and lawsuits filed by troopers.

Boston police will extend a six-month pilot study of officer-worn body cameras for an additional six months. (Boston Globe)