BDN reports “Public Lockout: From Deliberations by the Judiciary Committee of the Maine Legislature.
All legislative committees are mandated by Maine law to conduct hearings, deliberations, and work sessions in public.
But in a May 19 speech on the Senate floor, state Sen. David Dutremble (D-Biddeford) reported that the Judiciary Committee conducted such business in private over the weekend that started May 8. Its deliberations concerned the reappointment of controversial Judge Jeffrey Moskowitz – the judge who issued an illegal gag order in January – and whose reappointment was opposed by many members of the public.
Maine citizens deserve to know what transpired that weekend with their Judiciary Committee. Did the members, in fact, meet behind closed doors and/or have private conversations in violation of state mandates? A legislative inquiry into the actions of the committee is warranted to protect the interests of the public.
Here’s what is clear: Without a single comment or question, the Judiciary Committee on May 12 unanimously recommended that Moskowitz be reappointed. One by one, each committee member simply voted yes. Those of us who witnessed this were dumbfounded. It left us with the uncomfortable feeling that something was amiss. How was their unified position reached outside of public view?
This spring was the first time in 20 years that judicial reappointments were challenged. And many citizens vehemently and passionately expressed their opposition to Judge Moskowitz, as well as to Judge Patricia Worth before him. In both cases, the Judiciary Committee nevertheless unanimously recommended approval. And at least in the case of Moskowitz, committee members allegedly deliberated outside of the public’s view and earshot.
This is extremely concerning. State mandates requiring the utmost transparency are meant to protect us all.
Input from those who are consumers of the court system – not just lawyers who earn their livings in front of judges – must be heard. People also deserve to know that the systems set up to protect them are working as they’re supposed to. When systems become about protecting themselves instead of the citizens they were designed to protect, the delicate fabric and balance of our constitutional rights is put in jeopardy. Legislative maneuvers that eliminate transparency and thereby remove public oversight are the antithesis of a democratic society.
We urge the Maine Legislature to take action and give the public answers. When asked to explain how his committee could unanimously approve a judge with no public discussion whatsoever, the chair of Judiciary Committee, Sen. David Burns (R-Washington), responded that, “it is unfortunate that some individuals and legislators have tried to impugn the integrity of the committee members.”
Those who may dismiss this call for investigation, attributing it to “sour grapes” or “angry litigants,” demonstrate a lack of respect for the most essential principles that define our nation.
To date, the president of the Maine Senate, Michael Thibodeau, has failed to respond to requests for a public inquiry about the actions of the Judiciary Committee.
This raises additional concerns. Without a legislative inquiry and report, Maine citizens will be left to wonder if their legislative and judiciary truly are the separate branches of government that are fundamental to freedom and liberty. We need to know what our legislators are doing – and why they’re doing it.
If you agree with me on this, We urge readers to contact their legislator and request an investigation. Let’s just find out what happened.”
Read more HERE.
While it took decades for a state representative to listen, then experience for himself, the egregious misconduct by member of the Judiciary Committee, the proof is in the pudding.
In rebuttal to the BDN’s report “This spring was the first time in 20 years that judicial re-appointments were challenged” is not correct. Several people testified before the committee in opposition to York County Superior Court Judge Arthur Brennan’s reappointment, less than 20 years ago.
“When asked to explain how his committee could unanimously approve a judge with no public discussion whatsoever, the chair of Judiciary Committee, Sen. David Burns (R-Washington), responded that, “it is unfortunate that some individuals and legislators have tried to impugn the integrity of the committee members.”
Senator David Burns was a member of the Judiciary Committee when former A.G. William Schneider was appointed to judgeship by Governor Paul LePage. Review “A System In Crisis” and you can come to your own conclusions as to the “criteria” used for confirmation of judges.
View HERE. (Opposition to nomination begins at 46:14)
Phil Merletti Commentary on “A System In Crisis” – Judicial Confirmation Hearing of William J. Schneider, click here.
BDN reports “Maine Judiciary Committee Delays Reappointment Of Judge Jeffrey Moskowitz.”
“Judge Jeffrey Moskowitz was appointed to the District Court bench in January 2008 by Gov. John Baldacci after work as a prosecutor with the York County district attorney’s office. Gov. Paul LePage renominated Moskowitz to the bench last month along with eight of his colleagues.”
BDN reports ” A vote by the Judiciary Committee on the reappointment of the Maine judge was delayed Thursday until next week. Sen. David Burns, R-Whiting, chairman of the committee, said the delay would give District Court Judge Jeffrey Moskowitz and committee members an opportunity to read written testimony submitted before the hearing.
Burns said the committee would vote on Moskowitz’s renomination about 5 p.m. Tuesday.
More than half a dozen members of the legal community in Cumberland and York counties, including two district attorneys and a retired judge, spoke in favor of Moskowitz’s reappointment.
Moskowitz told the committee he wanted to keep his job.
“Like all people, I make mistakes,” he said. “You are all aware of my error issuing a controversial order. I sincerely regretted making that mistake. But I view my mistakes as a clear opportunity to learn and improve.”
Joshua Tardy, a Newport lawyer and former Republican legislator who is chairman of the governor’s judicial advisory committee, which vets judicial nominees, said the committee took concerns expressed about how Moskowitz handles family cases seriously.
“The committee felt an obligation to determine the veracity of the complaints about Judge Moskowitz,” Tardy told the committee. “I assure you that they have been taken seriously, and we have done our due diligence. We did not make a quick decision, but it was an easy decision once we had information.”
Moskowitz also was endorsed by the Maine State Bar Association and the Maine Trial Lawyers Association. The presidents of both organizations said they sought out members to ask about their experiences before Moskowitz and he was praised resoundingly.
Widespread reports from informants whom we know well have experienced in his court a repeated pattern of rudeness and disrespect, failure to follow the law.
The last time the committee rejected a nomination was in the late 1980s, according to Rep. Barry Hobbins, D-Saco, who has been a member of the Legislature since the 1970s.”
Read more HERE.
MPBN reports “Michael Welch, president of the Maine Trial Lawyers Association, said “We all make mistakes. How do you deal with it?” His organization endorsed Moskowitz’s reappointment because of his outstanding abilities as a judge.”
State Sen. David Dutremble, a Biddeford Democrat, says he had been approached by a number of people with complaints about Moskowitz and got no assistance from the Administrative Office of the Courts or the governor’s office when he tried to investigate those complaints. Dutremble was critical of the politics involved in judicial appointments.
“Attempts to escape politics inevitably result in heeding the advice of a narrow group of decision makers that express the opinions of special interests of segments. In Maine, the segment that votes on the judge is the bar – especially those members who are actively political within the bar,” Dutremble said. “The public and the ‘pro se’ users are excluded from the process.”
Read more HERE.
PPH reports “Attorney Joshua Tardy, who is chairman of Gov. Paul LePage’s Judicial Selection Committee, said his group conducted a thorough review before deciding to recommend Moskowitz.
“It was not a quick decision to be blunt, but it was an easy decision after all the deliberation. Judge Moskowitz is truly deserving of nomination,” Tardy said. “Our committee has received wide spread consensus and feedback that he is fair, that he is smart. He is honest. He is efficient.”
Other attorneys who spoke in favor of Moskowitz included David Levesque, president of the Maine State Bar Association; Robert Ruffner; Michael Welch, president of the Maine Trial Lawyers Association; Judy Potter; Kenneth Altshuler; Cumberland County District Attorney Stephanie Anderson; York County District Attorney Kathryn Slattery, Gerald Conley; Kristine Hanly; Diane Dusini; Robert Crowley, a retired judge; ; Ardith Keef and JohnWebb.
Notably, attorney Matthew Nichols, Webb’s law partner at Nichols and Webb, wrote a contradictory letter to the Judiciary Committee in which he said Moskowitz is “not a good judge.”
“If I had only my bad experiences with Judge Moskowitz, I would likely not be writing to you. But my own experiences have been echoed by countless other attorneys ranging from criminal defense lawyers, prosecutors, litigants and family law attorneys alike,” Nichols wrote in a letter dated May 4. “
The chairman of the committee, Sen. David Burns, R-Washington, on Thursday strictly enforced a three-minute time limit for testimony of Moskowitz’s opponents. But Burns allowed many attorneys in favor of Moskowitz to speak much longer.
Jerome Collins, who organizes an advocacy group called Maine Guardian Ad Litem Alerts, said he surveyed many citizens, as the Maine Bar Association, surveyed lawyers. He said citizens who appeared before Moskowitz who wanted to talk about him were those who felt wronged. He said that’s the opposite of lawyers who mostly only wanted to speak if they had something complimentary to say about the judge.
“What you really need is a legislative audit of the court to get the answer of what’s really going on. You need to conduct an in depth audit,” Collins said.
Other opponents who spoke against Moskowitz were Sen. David Dutremble, D-Biddeford; Falmouth activist Michael Doyle and Scarborough resident Robert Baizley.
None of the committee members asked Moskowitz any questions at the hearing.”
Moskowitz’s only supporter who was not a lawyer was Sen. Linda Valentino, D-Saco, who described herself as friends with Moskowitz.
Read more HERE.
CHANNEL 8 news report on Judge Moskowitz, view HERE.
A mistake? He’s sorry? Sorry doesn’t cut it!
Judge Moskowitz Finally Gets Caught By Someone Other Than FTM Running His Kangaroo Courtroom, click here.
Judge Jeffrey Moskowitz Apologized And Acknowledged That His Order Was Not Lawful, click here.
Judicial Confirmation Hearing – Judge Jeffrey H. Moskowitz Thursday, May 07, 2015, click here.
Maine Judge Jeffrey Moskowitz Comes Under Review At Public Forum, click here.
Public Exposure Moves Maine’s Attorney General Janet Mills,click here.
PPH Reporter Scott Dolan Presented With Freedom Of Information Award For Challenging Judge Jeffrey Moskowitz’s Gag Order, click here.
Judge Donald Marden’s Cabbage Is Shredded, click here.
Have You Been Harmed By Maine’s Judicial System? Click here.
IS THIS WHAT YOU WANT ON THE BENCH?