No announcement yet.

Weston Resident Gets Another Chance At Judgeship

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Weston Resident Gets Another Chance At Judgeship


    Wicked Local- Weston, MA
    Feb 27 2014

    By Colleen Quinn
    State House News Service

    Attorney Joseph Berman of Weston, whose nomination for a seat on
    the Superior Court has been shrouded in controversy, got another
    shot Wednesday to convince the Governor's Council he would make a
    good judge, apologizing for some impressions he may have left with
    council members during his initial vetting.

    Attorney Joseph Berman of Weston, whose nomination for a seat on
    the Superior Court has been shrouded in controversy, got another
    shot Wednesday to convince the Governor's Council he would make a
    good judge, apologizing for some impressions he may have left with
    council members during his initial vetting.

    "I am grateful for today's second chance to show you who I am, what
    drives me, and how I have taken your concerns to heart," Berman said.

    Berman waited quietly for nearly two-and-half hours before he first
    spoke while witnesses spoke for and against his nomination.

    Gov. Deval Patrick withdrew Berman's nomination last week and
    resubmitted it in order to give his nominee another hearing. After his
    November hearing, a majority of council members said they planned to
    vote against Berman. Patrick delayed the vote and has tried to sway
    council members.

    Councilors cited concerns about Berman's hefty campaign contributions
    to Democratic candidates, his representation of a prisoner at
    a Guantanamo Bay detention camp, and his leadership role in
    the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) - an organization that refused
    to recognize the Armenian genocide, and worked against efforts in
    Congress to acknowledge it, critics charge.

    Some councilors questioned why he did not resign from his position as
    a board member of the New England chapter of the ADL because of the
    organization's stance on the genocide by the Turks that took place
    in the early 20th century.

    Witnesses spoke against Berman becoming a judge because of his
    leadership role in the ADL, the international organization that was
    founded in 1913 to fight anti-Semitism.

    David Boyajian, who described himself as a member of the
    Armenian-American community, lambasted the ADL for its refusal to
    recognize the Armenian genocide and for "consciously and deliberately"
    working to defeat genocide resolutions in the U.S. Congress. He
    questioned why Berman, as a national and regional board member, did not
    speak out publicly against the ADL's stance on the Armenian genocide
    when he says he does not support it, and why he did not resign.

    "Surely the New England ADL and its commissioners, including Mr.

    Berman, knew what the national ADL was up to. Did they ever speak out?

    No," Boyajian said.

    Boyajian pointed out that the Massachusetts Municipal Association,
    and several Massachusetts communities, cut ties with the ADL's "No
    Place for Hate" campaign in 2007-08 in the wake of the controversy
    that became an international affair.

    During his first confirmation hearing, Berman said he thought about
    resigning, but decided against it because of the good work the ADL
    does. Boyajian said that was not good enough.

    "Did Mr. Berman ever speak out publicly? No," Boyajian said.

    "Only now are we hearing from Mr. Berman on the Armenian genocide
    issue just when he wishes to become a judge," Boyajian said.

    Boyajian said the ADL must apologize to Armenians and recognize the
    genocide unambiguously. He asked the Governor's Council to reject
    Berman's nomination because he is a "top member of an organization
    that engages in genocide denial."

    Councilor Christopher Iannella told Boyajian he understands his
    opposition to the nominee because of the history between the ADL and
    the Armenian community, but wanted to know if he had any personal
    knowledge of Berman's trial experience and demeanor. Boyajian did not.

    "I look at character. I look at experience. I look at demeanor. I am
    not diminishing what you say," Iannella said.

    Councilor Terrence Kennedy said he appreciates Boyajian's passion,
    but added he does not think it is inconsistent to recognize the
    Armenian genocide and to vote in favor of Berman at the same time.

    "I think he was very clear, in his testimony last time, that he tried
    to get the policy changed," Kennedy said.

    Councilor Jennie Caissie said she is concerned about "truthfulness
    and veracity" of a judicial nominee and questioned Berman's statement
    during the last hearing that he led an "insurrection" at the New
    England chapter to change national ADL policy. Caissie said Berman
    could not provide any verification that he actively worked to fight
    the ADL's stance on the Armenian genocide.

    Councilor Robert Jubinville said, "I guess for me, it is about Mr.

    Berman." He added that "there are times when I should have spoken up
    about issues and I didn't, and I regret it."

    Councilor Marilyn Devaney asked Boyajian if the national ADL has
    ever recognized the Armenian genocide. Boyajian said the national ADL
    has never "forthrightly" acknowledged the genocide, and continues to
    fight genocide resolutions in the U.S. Congress.

    Devaney said she was called "ignorant" in editorials in The Boston
    Herald and The Boston Globe. "I just want to make that clear, that
    I'm not ignorant," she said. Several council members defended Devaney,
    saying she was criticized unfairly.

    Criticisms of the council made headlines in Boston newspaper editorials
    after Berman's first confirmation hearing. They were chastised for
    making his membership in the ADL an issue.

    Berman 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

    Berman thanked the council for giving him another hearing, adding he
    respects the state Constitutional process that dictates how judges are
    selected and "for the indispensible role of the Governor's Council."

    "I know I will be a better judge because of this process. This process
    has given me a chance for self-reflection and a recognition that I
    always have more to learn," he said.

    He addressed concerns about political donations, his understanding
    of drug addiction, and philosophy of a judge's role.

    Berman apologized for impressions he may have given some council
    members that he does not understand drug addiction. Since the first
    hearing, he said he educated himself more on addiction, reading a
    book recommended to him by Jubinville and spending time in a Newton
    drug court. He also took a course related to drug addiction.

    During the last hearing, Berman was also criticized for hefty campaign
    contributions, approximately $110,000 during the past decade, largely
    to campaigns at the federal level. At the hearing, he was asked how
    much he gives to charity. Afterward, Berman submitted a list detailing
    his family's charitable contributions in the past three years, which
    total approximately $100,000.

    "I wish that money did not play such a large role in politics, but
    it does," he said, adding he donates three times as much to charities
    than political candidates.

    Iannella said campaign and political contributions are not a
    factor when he makes a decision. "The federal and state political
    contributions, I don't care. You're a wealthy guy," he said.

    Iannella said what does mean something to him is that Berman took
    time to educate himself on drug addiction after the first hearing.

    Several council members said they were more impressed with Berman's
    performance at the second hearing.

    Berman again defended his decision to represent a prisoner at a
    Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba, saying it was a constitutional
    issue. No criminal charges were ever brought against his client,
    but he remained detained.

    "I wasn't doing it to make a point publicly," he said. "It was an
    important constitutional issue there."

    Berman said he is passionate about the legal system. In 2004,
    he applied for a position on the district court, but the Judicial
    Nomination Commission did not advance his name.

    The council will meet again next week. While the council has over
    the years often voted on nominees a week after their hearing, the
    governor decides when a vote is taken on any nominee.

    In January, more than 100 attorneys wrote to the council urging
    approval of Berman's nomination. Among the lawyers was former Gov.

    William Weld, former Attorney General Scott Harshbarger, and Attorney
    General candidate Warren Tolman.