By Colleen Quinn
BOSTON (Weston Town Crier) — A controversial judicial candidate whose bid for the bench was blocked by the Governor’s Council will get another shot to convince them of his qualifications after Gov. Deval Patrick withdrew and resubmitted his nomination on Tuesday.
Joseph Berman, whom Patrick nominated for a seat on the superior court, came under fire from members of the council for his role at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), his hefty campaign contributions to Democrats and his representation of a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay detention camp.
The national ADL refused to recognize the early 20th century Armenian genocide – a fact that led some council members to criticize Berman for holding a high-ranking position in the organization. Some councilors thought he should have resigned from an organization that did not recognize the Armenian genocide. He was questioned for more than four hours by the council in November.
“I’ve listened, and he’s listened to some of the concerns that have been raised by councilors. And I think he has some responses they ought to hear. So I appreciate that they will have another hearing,” Patrick told reporters after a council meeting Wednesday.
Patrick said, “I think he’s eminently qualified. I appreciate the sensitivities that were raised about him, but I think he’s ready to be a Superior Court judge, and I think he ought to have an opportunity to go right at some of the concerns that were raised and try to satisfy the councilors.”
Berman has listened to the councilors’ concerns, Patrick said, and is ready to give “better prepared and more responsive answers to their concerns.”
Berman is a Weston resident who is a partner at the Boston law firm Looney & Grossman. He graduated from Dartmouth College and received his law degree from the University of Michigan Law School. His practice focuses on commercial litigation.
In January, more than 100 attorneys wrote to the council urging them to approve Berman’s nomination. Among the lawyers were former governor William Weld, former Attorney General Scott Harshbarger, and attorney general candidate Warren Tolman.
“The signers of this letter and many others throughout Massachusetts share a concern that some members of the Governor’s Council have focused on the wrong issues in considering his nomination and have misstated the facts,” the letter stated. “We believe that Mr. Berman is eminently qualified to be a Superior Court judge. He has practiced in the Commonwealth for twenty years and in Colorado for two years before that. He has substantial experience with both civil and criminal matters, including numerous trials. He knows the Superior Court, respects it and will do all in his power to protect it for the benefit of all in Massachusetts.”
Patrick delayed a vote on Berman’s nomination in November after a majority of the council said they would not vote for him. The Governor’s Council vets and approves the governor’s judicial nominees. When he delayed the vote, Patrick said he wanted more time to round up votes in Berman’s favor.
The council’s objection to Berman’s nomination spurred some criticism of the council in newspaper editorials and other media outlets. Later, council members criticized the governor for postponing the vote, saying they had made up their minds.
On Wednesday, the council scheduled a hearing for February 26 at 1 p.m. without making any comments about Berman or the controversy that surrounded his nomination.
By Colleen Quinn