Late last month, we received some welcome news from the White House. President Obama nominated three lawyers for federal judgeships in Massachusetts: David Jeremiah Barron to the First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Mark G. Mastroianni to the U.S. District Court in Springfield, and Indira Talwani to the U.S. District Court in Boston.
Senator Elizabeth Warren has described the two U.S. District Court nominees as “talented and respected practitioners with diverse professional backgrounds, strong ties to the community, and impressive legal careers.” Similarly she’s noted that the nominee for the First Circuit “is a highly respected law professor and former government official with a strong commitment to public service.”
As you may know, the Boston Bar Association does not rate candidates for the federal judiciary, a role traditionally left to the American Bar Association. As our federal judges serve for life, we do take very seriously Article III, Section 2 of the United States Constitution, which requires that nominees for judicial posts be vetted by the United States Senate.
Nobody benefits from having three unfilled judicial positions at a time when there is work to be done. Even the most cursory reading of news accounts over the past year suggests that the federal courts in Massachusetts have been extremely busy with both high profile criminal cases and extremely complex civil cases. There are some additional high profile criminal trials that will be coming soon, putting further strain on the District of Massachusetts. This will have an impact on all litigants.
In Springfield, for example, the position has been vacant since Judge Michael Ponsor’s taking senior status in August 2011, in the process placing an undue burden on the U.S. District Judges in Boston. The District Court vacancies in Boston came about when Judges Mark Wolf and Joseph Tauro assumed senior status in January and September of this year. The First Circuit Court of Appeals vacancy occurred when Judge Michael Boudin assumed Senior Status last June.
As an independent, co-equal branch of government, our federal judiciary plays too important a role in our lives to be politicized. It is in that spirit that, we urge the Senate Judiciary Committee to exercise all due haste in scheduling hearings for each nominee, and then proceed to vote each nominee up or down. In the event that a nominee is voted up, we would urge that the nominee be voted up or down by the full Senate. All we ask is that the nominees be judged on their qualifications, including the ability to be fair and free from bias, not on any political considerations.