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Bill Filed to Limit Judicial Terms

By Allan Stein, correspondent, Westfield Evening News, April 29, 2003


Cutline: Holyoke Police Chief Anthony Scott makes a point during a public forum Monday night at Brightside for Families and Children that was sponsored by the Fatherhood Coalition.

WEST SPRINGFIELD -- Holyoke Police Chief Anthony Scott said the state isn't holding judges accountable for making bad decisions in court and called on Massachusetts lawmakers to put an end to lifetime judicial appointments.

Scott, an outspoken critic of the state's legal system, has proposed a constitutional amendment limiting judicial appointments to six years. The voters would then decide if a judge should be confirmed for additional terms by the Governor's Council.

"I am talking about all judges (although) I'm not painting all judges with a big brush. We have some good judges. We have some bad judges too," said Scott while addressing some 40 members of the Fatherhood Coalition in a public forum held Monday night at Brightside for Families and Children.

"A judge can violate a state statute and nothing can be done to them," Scott said.

Earlier on Monday, Scott went before the Legislature's Joint Committee on the Judiciary to lobby in support of the bill, whose cosponsors are state Rep. Michael F. Kane, D-Holyoke, and state Sen. Michael R. Knapik, R-Westfield.

Organizers of the public forum said Scott was invited to give a legislative progress report as the proposed amendment relates to efforts by the Fatherhood Coalition to promote reform in family courts.

"We want the same thing. Our mission and goals run parallel," said Mike Franco, state chairman for the Fatherhood Coalition. "It's clear some judges abuse their discretion. And they do it with impunity."

The Fatherhood Coalition is a non-profit volunteer organization that was formed by non-custodial fathers in 1994 to secure equal parenting rights and responsibilities for men and women. The organization has about 1,500 members statewide.

During the public forum, which lasted over an hour, Scott described a litany of recent courtroom decisions in which judges put accused rapists, armed robbers and prostitutes back on the streets within hours of their arrest. He cited the recent arrest of 17 alleged drug dealers in Holyoke, seven of whom were released on minimal bail, only to resume drug dealing in school zones.

"What message did that judge say to those drug dealers? That it is perfectly OK to deal drugs within a school zone," Scott said.

Scott, who describes himself as a conservative Republican, accused some Massachusetts judges of "practicing social work from the bench," to the detriment of public safety. He rejected criticism that the constitutional amendment he is proposing seeks to elect judges.

"I am not proposing to elect judges. I said I would like to see in that amendment that judges be certified," Scott said. "The only person that a judge is running against is himself."

The proposed amendment would eliminate the current practice of governor-appointed judges for life and establish instead a confirmation process guided by voters, he said. Since 1995, there have been many attempts by lawmakers to pass similar legislation, all of which failed for lack of political support, Scott said.

"If you don't start calling your legislators, this amendment is not going to pass. Judges are not going to be responsible until you make them responsible. Right now, they sit for life. They get paid and work maybe five hours a day. I put in more hours by accident than most judges put in on purpose in a week," Scott said.

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Chief Anthony Scott's web site for judicial accountability is www.massjudgesaccountability.us. You may also find the link to his web site on the coalition's site at www.fatherhoodcoalition.org.

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