Sen. Elizabeth Warren begins search for federal judges
KEVIN GUTTING C. Jeffrey Kinder (R) smiles at comments offered by his former law partner John Pucci (C) at Kinder's induction and installation as a Superior Court associate justice Thursday in the Old Superior courtroom of the Hampshire County Courthouse. At left is Hampshire Superior Court clerk Harry Jekanowski Jr. Kinder was officially sworn in last Thursday, Oct. 5. Purchase photo reprints »
NORTHAMPTON — U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren has appointed a new advisory committee on judicial nominations for federal court vacancies in Springfield and Boston, positions she says she wants filled quickly.
Candidates have only three weeks to throw their hats into the ring as an application deadline has been set for April 8.
Meantime, a superior court judge nominated for the vacancy in U.S. District Court in Springfield in August 2011 withdrew his name for contention earlier this month.
In a March 8 letter to Warren, Judge C. Jeffrey Kinder wrote that he no longer wished to be considered for the post 19 months after former Sens. John Kerry and Scott Brown jointly recommended to President Obama that he be nominated.
Kinder, of Wilbraham, was seeking to replace U.S. District Court Judge Michael A. Ponsor of Amherst, who has taken on senior status and reduced his case load significantly.
“Even if I were to emerge from the process as your candidate, I can only conclude, based on my experience over the last 19 months and the current political climate in Washington, that my pursuit of the position would cause additional delay,” Kinder wrote to Warren. “Such delay would be unfair to the people of western Massachusetts who deserve to have this important position filled quickly.”
Kinder is a former Northampton attorney and federal prosecutor who earlier served as an assistant U.S. attorney in Colorado and Massachusetts. He became a superior court judge in October 2006 after being nominated for the post by former Gov. Mitt Romney.
Federal judicial candidates are nominated by the president and confirmed by a vote of the Senate. At the time of Kinder’s recommendation, Kerry and Brown also had nominated former Magistrate Judge Timothy S. Hillman for a federal court vacancy in U.S. District Court in Worcester. Obama nominated Hillman for the post later that year and he was confirmed by a vote of 88-1 in the Senate in July 2012.
In his letter to Warren, Kinder said he was aware that she was assembling a committee to screen candidates for the federal court vacancies, but noted that the time, energy and effort required to repeat the process “will be a continuing distraction from my work as a superior court judge, a job which deserves my complete attention.”
“He was sort of hanging there for 19 months and I think he just got tired of it,” said John P. Pucci, a Springfield attorney and Kinder’s former law partner in Northampton. “The Republicans have blocked so many judicial nominations it’s easy to see that even if you get out of the White House, you could get caught up in the whole process again.”
Pucci is one of several members of the Massachusetts legal community serving on the new advisory committee, whose role is to solicit, interview and comment on applications for the federal court vacancies. Other attorneys reviewing applications for the Springfield vacancy are Michael Jennings, Thomas Lesser, Jennifer Levi and Katherine Robertson.
Applications for the Boston vacancy will be reviewed by attorneys Pamela Berman, Jack Corrigan, Marianne LeBlanc, Willard P. Ogburn and Walter Prince. The advisory committee is being chaired by former District Court Judge Nancy Gertner.
Warren said she was pleased to announce the creation of the advisory committee, which will work to review applications and identify the most highly qualified candidates from across the commonwealth.
“A lifetime appointment to the bench is a solemn responsibility,” Warren said in a statement announcing the panel Thursday.
In addition to the advisory committee, a group of academics from the law schools of Suffolk University, Harvard University and Boston College, as well as the Massachusetts Bar Association, will review all applications.
Pucci said it’s important for the court vacancies to be filled as early as possible because some cases that should be heard in western Massachusetts are being shipped to Boston, bringing inconvenience and expense to lawyers and their clients.
“You’re diminishing the physical and intellectual access to a courthouse,” Pucci said. “It’s a problem. It’s really an access to justice issue.”
He said it’s essential for the committee to review a strong pool of high-quality candidates for the court vacancies.
Interested candidates should contact Judge Gertner at email@example.com. Applications must be completed and received by April 8.
Dan Crowley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.