In Massachusetts, judicial appointments are for the most part lifetime appointments. There is an age restriction at the age of 70; judges must retire, although they may continue to work on a recall basis.
However some of the newer positions are utilizing new methods that could provide accountability outside of the judiciary itself.
Term limits on judicial appointments are one such practice.
Currently appointments to the Industrial Accident Board include a term limit. Nominees may be reappointed to the same position, but they have to go back through the Governor’s Council for the reappointment.
The Governor’s Council is the only governmental body in this process that is open and transparent to the public.
Performance evaluations are also mandated for this body and they are used by the Governor’s Council during re-evaluation.
Any new system needs to be judged on its merits. Whether or not this new system would improve our judiciary is a legitimate question
Unfortunately, as was made clear at hearings of the Governor’s Council on May 30, 2012, this process is not being followed.
Judges are being allowed to continue in their positions, long after their term has expired.
At the Governor’s Council meeting, members of the Industrial Accident Board were urged to follow the procedures established by statue. They were urged to submit nominations for the positions whose term had expired, either through reappointment or submission of new nominees.
Term limits for judges should be honored, not simply ignored.
Governor Patrick should take the time to review this process and work with the responsible parties to ensure that this process works as it was intended.