Northampton public defender Thomas Estes interviews with Governor’s Council for judge’s job

Thursday, February 20, 2014
NORTHAMPTON — Northwestern District Attorney David E. Sullivan was among the lawyers who urged the Governor’s Council on Wednesday to confirm the nomination of Northampton District Court’s chief public defender, Thomas H. Estes, to become a judge in the same court.

“Tom is an outstanding judicial nominee,” Sullivan said in a telephone interview Wednesday night. “Everybody who goes before him will be treated with the utmost respect, and that’s what you want for all judges. Everyone just wants a fair shot.”

Gov. Deval Patrick nominated Estes in January as associate justice of the Northampton District Court.

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Estes, 46, of 39 Wilson Ave., interviewed with the Governor’s Council in Boston on Wednesday for the job. He told councilors that he wanted to become a judge to ensure that the justice system is fair to everyone, according to published reports.

Attempts to reach Estes for comment Wednesday night were unsuccessful.

In addition to Sullivan, Hampshire Superior Court head public defender Alan Rubin and Worcester District Court Judge Jennifer Ginsberg also testified on behalf of Estes.

Sullivan said Estes is thoughtful, community-minded and driven to do the right thing.

“He has a great reputation in the community for being fair,” Sullivan told the Gazette. “With Tom, you don’t just get a great trial attorney, you get a great person. He has a big heart and he loves to help people.”

Estes has served as the attorney-in-charge of the Public Defender Division of the Committee for Public Counsel Services in the Northampton District Court since 2006, according to a statement from the governor’s office. For four years before that, he worked as a public defender in district and superior courts in Hampshire County.

A native Virginian, Estes earned his law degree from William & Mary Law School in Williamsburg, Va., in 1996 and worked as a public defender in Virginia from 1998 to 2002.

If the Governor’s Council confirms him in a vote scheduled for March 5, Estes would fill the vacancy created when Judge Richard J. Carey was appointed in 2010 to the state’s Superior Court.

In September 2012, Estes won a Patriot’s Award from the U.S. Defense Department’s Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve program. He was nominated by Angel Rodriguez, his friend and a Committee for Public Counsel Services investigator, for supporting him when he was headed to a tour of duty in Afghanistan with the U.S. Army National Guard.

At that time, Rodriguez told the Gazette that the two share a passion for giving low-income clients a fighting chance in court. Rodriguez said that soon after he got the job in 2007, Estes became his mentor. He “taught me to be a better leader,” Rodriguez said.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.