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True Conflict of Interest

From: Mike Franco, MBA, K.
Sent on: Tuesday, July 31, 2012 10:24 PM

Letter: Should attorney be on Governor's Council?
The Reminder, Greater Springfield area, 7/31/12

I read with interest your July 24 story about a candidate running for Governor's Council who laid out his philosophy on the courts and role of the 8-member Executive Board of the Council. The Board’s most prominent responsibility is to up-or-down vote judicial nominees recommended by the Governor.

Readers must be relieved the candidate checked with State Ethics to verify whether there would be any conflicts of interests or violations of the law, which would prohibit him from holding a position at the municipal level concurrent with “serving” on the Governor’s Council.

This question was raised as a distraction from more important issues at hand. For instance, the candidate did not even flinch as he touted his credentials that are inherently tied to a true conflict of interest; his professional affiliation as an attorney with the Springfield law firm - Fallon, Sullivan & Mulvaney.

This nonchalant “keep moving, nothing to see here” politically motivated demeanor concerns me deeply, and should worry you as well. Can you say ‘billable hours’, ‘cottage industry’, ‘judges’, ‘lawyers’ and ‘public service’ comfortably in one statement? I cannot. The last term is slightly askew.

Come on. “Let’s get real” as Herman Cain used to say on the Presidential campaign trail. People’s lives, their families and freedoms are at stake. This is especially so when one should have the misfortune of getting pulled in and cycled through the Massachusetts court system.

Lawyers and judges who mix politics with profession do not have a history of being empathetic to misfit – not adept with their culture, and sometimes resistant subjects.

Mike Franco

(Editor's note: Mr. Franco is a Republican candidate for Governor's Council.)

The original article I responded to is below..

Sullivan to advocate for judicial resources
By G. Michael Dobbs, The Reminder, July 24, 2012

WESTFIELD - Westfield School Committee Vice Chairman Kevin Sullivan is running for Governor's Council with the goal of advocating for judicial resources in Western Massachusetts.

Sullivan explained to Reminder Publications that he wanted to bring "accountability, ability and competence" to the body that primarily affirms judicial appointments.

He added that he sees the Governor's Council as "the watchdog of the judicial system."

Public service runs in Sullivan's family as his brother Richard is Secretary of Energy and the Environment - as well as the long-time former mayor of Westfield - and his brother Brian has been president of the Westfield City Council six times.

Sullivan is a partner in Fallon, Sullivan & Mulvaney law firm in Springfield and said he knows first hand the challenges local courts face. Since serving on the council is a one-day-a-week commitment, Sullivan will continue his law practice.

A ruling from the State Ethics Commission allows Sullivan to remain on the School Committee if he is elected.

He explained the council must affirm all appointments to the bench from housing court to the Supreme Judicial Court. With the appointment of local judges, Sullivan said it is important to appoint qualified people into those positions as quickly as possible.

Judicial theory is a more important criteria with appointees nominated for the higher courts, he said.

He explained his criteria for judges include knowledge of how to control a courtroom as well as how to move the docket forward. Sullivan said that judges must also understand the "nuances of their communities."

The council also approves the appointments of clerks, which Sullivan said is also important and is involved in some probation and parole matters.

Because the Springfield District Court is so busy, Sullivan said he would advocate for additional resources especially for that court.

A Democrat, Sullivan would be facing former Springfield Mayor Michael Albano and Gerry Roy in a primary on Sept. 6.

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