Judging the judge

A protest last week outside a Salem courthouse featured a refrain made familiar by the scholarly legal eagles who regularly populate the president’s rally, where they apply only the most reasoned conclusions to complicated issues.

“Lock him up,” shouted about 200 people gathered outside the Ruane Judicial Center, according to this Salem News account. The “him” being summarily tried and sentenced was Essex Superior Court Judge Timothy Feeley, but the crowd might as well have used “them” instead and urged the twin jailing of both Feeley and Manuel Soto-Vittini.

After all, it was Feeley’s recent decision to sentence Soto-Vittini to probation rather than jail on a heroin distribution conviction that prompted protest in Salem — and on Beacon Hill.

Republican State Rep. Jim Lyons has filed a measure to have Feeley thrown off the bench, an effort that US Senate candidate Geoff Diehl, a Whitman state rep, has signed on to. Gov. Charlie Baker has weighed in, too, calling the decision “ridiculous and outrageous.”

What’s more, when asked whether he’ll take steps to remove Feeley from the bench, Baker didn’t seem to answer directly, but likened the case to that of Judge Thomas Estes in Western Massachusetts., who was recently censured by the Supreme Judicial Court for having sex with a drug court clinician in his chambers.

“Look, the courts need to take a look at this stuff, as they did with Judge Estes,” Baker told reporters last week, appearing to lump together a case of judicial misconduct with questioning the judicial discretion exercised by a judge in a case.

His remarks appear to have been the last straw for former federal judge Nancy Gertner, who pens an op-ed in today’s Globe ripping Baker’s comments as a “Trump lite” echo of the president’s habit of “trashing judges with whom he disagrees.”

The dust-up over the case comes as the state grapples with a devastating opioid epidemic and following recent passage of a sweeping criminal justice law, signed by Baker, that aims to deal with drug addiction more as a public health problem than criminal justice issue.

Soto-Vittini did not claim an addiction problem and was apparently dealing drugs strictly as a commercial enterprise. Feeley was, nonetheless, certainly free to sentence him to probation for a charge that was his first criminal conviction. What’s more, because Soto-Vittini is a legal resident, but not a US citizen, he faces likely deportation back to his native Dominican Republic based on the conviction. Critics of Feeley’s decision would have had him first incarcerated here, at a cost of roughly $50,000 a year, and then sent back home.

Last week, the Patch documented a set of cases Feeley has handled in which critics say he went too easy on defendants, including one defendant whose bail he lowered and who is now facing charges of killing a Maine sheriff deputy after getting released.

Anger over such a case is understandable. At the same time, Gertner says, the attacks on Feeley are coming while we are in the midst of a rethinking of the tough-on-crime era and a moral panic” over crack cocaine in the 1980s that led to “mass incarceration and wildly disparate sentences for blacks and Hispanics as compared to whites, with little impact on distribution.”

Judges in Massachusetts enjoy lifetime gubernatorial appointment. Nonetheless, the message of the attacks on Feeley, Gertner says, is, “The way to avoid being criticized is to imprison more and more. It is always a one-way ratchet. This time we can ill afford it.”



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Beacon HIll lawmakers appear poised to loosen rules over how many hours someone can work for state government while already collecting a state pension. (Boston Globe)


President Trump pardons right-wing provocateur Dinesh D’Souza, who has blamed the “cultural left” in the US for 9/11, joked about the Holocaust, and recently mocked survivors of the Parkland, Florida, school shootings. (Boston Globe, New York Times)

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Vermont is offering out-of-state people who work remotely as much as $10,000 if they relocate to the state. (Burlington Free Press)

Early inhabitants of the Americas split into separate groups and did not reunite for thousands of years, according to DNA studies. (New York Times)


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Democratic gubernatorial candidates Jay Gonzalez and Robert Massie engaged in a mini-debate agreeing on nearly everything — from transportation to education to Baker’s performance — except who is the better candidate. (Greater Boston)

A WBUR poll indicates 52 percent of Massachusetts residents would not vote to repeal a 2016 law protecting the rights of transgender people, while 38 percent would. (WBUR) The same poll shows Gov. Charlie Baker and Sen. Elizabeth Warren retain their strong leads in their races for reelection. (WBUR)

State Sen. Barbara L’Italien is raising lots of money from lobbyists and other Beacon Hill insiders for her run in the Third Congressional District despite leveling criticism of other candidates for their reliance on high-profile donors. (Boston Globe)


City officials are developing a new master plan to govern development in Boston’s booming downtown area. (Boston Globe)

As a new Wahlburgers restaurant prepares to open in Dorchester, the Dorchester Reporter and WBUR take a look at the complicated relationship between the Wahlberg family members and their hometown.

The national economy added 223,000 jobs in May, which was revealed by President Trump in a break with protocol by a tweet before the statistics were released by the Labor Department. (Washington Post)


A Herald editorial calls for the University of Massachusetts Amherst to cap out-of-state enrollment in the wake of a report showing the school has ratcheted up the share of students from outside Massachusetts while also applying admission standards that make it easier for them to gain acceptance than for in-state applicants. A Lowell Sun editorial takes the opposite stance: “Giving a slight nod to non-residents is simply the price of doing business in the current environment for institutions of higher learning,” the paper said.

Two views on the Supreme Judicial Court’s recent ruling on charter schools: One, from John Griffin of Democrats for Education Reform, says the ruling is a wakeup call. The other, from Jim Stergios of the Pioneer institute, says the ruling is a step backwards. (CommonWealth)

A Telegram & Gazette editorial praised Berlin and Boylston for their decision to fully regionalize all of their schools.

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A Globe editorial says it would take just $3.25 million to launch an initial trial of a promising drug to block infection with Lyme disease, which is rampant in Massachusetts.

A study in the journal JAMA Pediatrics finds the suicide rate among black children under the age of 13 is twice that of white children of the same age. (U.S. News & World Report)


In a wide-ranging interview with the Telegram & Gazette, Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito say they are serious about adding a third track to the Worcester commuter rail line.

US Rep. William Keating says he is “optimistic” that the Army Corps of Engineers will delay the scheduled start of repairs to the Bourne Bridge until next spring so as not to disrupt traffic and businesses. Meanwhile, a bill in Congress could provide funding to replace the 83-year-old Bourne and Sagamore bridges. (Cape Cod Times)


The insurer for the town of Falmouth has paid a $255,000 settlement to 10 abutters of the now-shuttered wind turbines, bringing the issue to a close. (Cape Cod Times)

Natick officials say the town could save nearly $1 million in energy costs by installing solar panels. (MetroWest Daily News)


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The Worcester County jail broke ground on a new $20 million intake facility to better evaluate incoming inmates. Officials say 90 percent of them are addicted to drugs or alcohol. (MassLive)