BOSTON, Aug. 8, 2012—Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley today delivered the following statement on the Supreme Judicial Court decision in In the Matter of the Enforcement of a Subpoena, which noted that a district attorney had filed a complaint with the Commission on Judicial Conduct. District Attorney Conley does not by this statement confirm that he or his office is the complainant referenced in this opinion, as the CJC proceeding remains confidential:
“The Supreme Judicial Court today made clear that the Special Counsel should continue with his investigation of a judge accused of willfully disregarding the law. The high court confirmed that the Special Counsel properly issued a subpoena in that investigation and may question the judge about a pattern of bias shown in 58 separate criminal cases. This number far exceeds the examples the Court relied on in disciplining other judges in the past, where there were as few as 6 and at most 29 cases that showed misconduct.
“I am disappointed however, that while judges will still be required to submit to questioning on their decisions, they won’t be required to answer the fundamental question of whether those decisions were based on an improper bias. Further, the SJC has made a judge’s privilege in this regard absolute, which stands in stark contrast to the fact that it has on many occasions limited the privileges afforded to victims of sexual assault and individuals undergoing psychiatric treatment.
“It is notable that so many in Massachusetts’ powerful criminal defense bar urged the court to create this privilege. While some in the defense bar might have thought it justifiable to protect a judge biased against police and prosecutors, the full potential consequence of this decision must be carefully considered. If a judge ever shows racial bias, bias against female attorneys, or bias against same-sex partners in Family and Probate Court, this decision provides a powerful shield that will be used to keep him or her on the bench.
“Massachusetts is one of the few remaining states where all judges are appointed for life. Judges here have long been afforded great protections to shield them both from political pressures and interference so they can do their jobs faithfully and without bias. We must take very seriously how decisions such as the one issued today, when combined with legitimately reported questions of judicial conduct, can actually undermine popular support for an independent judiciary. Everyone in government, including judges, must be accountable to someone.”
All defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.