Swift's legacy of patronage June 30, 2009
News Staff Metrowest Daily News
Posted Nov 23, 2002 @ 07:00 PM

Last update Jan 04, 2008 @ 02:54 AM

Framingham -- When it comes to political patronage, there is no plum more tasty than the job of clerk magistrate in a district court. The job doesn't require a law degree or applicable experience. Clerk magistrates are well paid, can hire their friends and set their own hours. All it takes to get the job are political connections to the governor and the rubber-stamp approval of the Governor's Council.

The clerk magistrates are also responsible for the efficient dispensation of justice in Massachusetts. That's no trivial responsibility, and it's one that shouldn't be secondary to the political spoils system.

That's why it's refreshing to find a committee of lawyers raising a dignified protest against the latest politics-as-usual clerk-magistrate appointment. Only hours after Brian J. Kearney was interviewed this week by the Governor's Council, the Joint Bar Committee on Judicial Appointments issued an opinion that said he is "not qualified" to serve as clerk magistrate of Natick District court.

Certainly there's not much in Kearney's three-sentence resume to argue otherwise. He served as a police patrolman and dog-handler, first in Wareham, then for the MBTA. Since 1999, Kearney, 40, has served as an assistant at Boston Municipal Court, the epicenter of patronage in the state's patronage-laden court system.

What's not on Kearney's resume is one critical detail: He is the husband of state Rep. Marianne Lewis, D-Dedham, who was, until defeated in the September primary, one of House Speaker Tom Finneran's top lieutenants.

The Kearney appointment isn't the first appointment by acting Gov. Jane Swift to raise eyebrows. There have been several in recent weeks that look more like political payback than sound personnel management.

That's a shame. The end of the Swift Administration's short history has yet to be written. Through what must have been a painful 10 months, the acting governor has been dignified and responsible. She risks spoiling this last chapter by leaving a legacy of bad appointments.

Swift should withdraw the Kearney nomination. If she proceeds, the Governor's Council should reject it.

That may be asking a lot of the Governor's Council, a relic of colonial days that has itself been an important cog in the patronage machine. But it's time for the Governor's Council to rise above its reputation. It must not let Jane Swift give away the store on her way out the door.

Maryanne Lewis, wife of Brian J. Kearney

(508) 653-4332

2013 Salary: $ 110,221

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