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The Primary Numbers: But Select Capable Men (& Women) and Have Hurley Confirm Them…

Which one? On far left Mary Hurley and Jeff Morneau. (via Focus Springfield)

Which one? On far left Mary Hurley and Jeff Morneau. (via Focus Springfield)

In Massachusetts, there exist more than a few arcane and esoteric offices. The Governor’s Council, a throwback to colonial days which confirms judges, labor relations commissioner and other posts appointed by the governor and approves pardons and notaries, is one such body. Its 8th district in Western Massachusetts, is open due to the retirement of incumbent Michael Albano.

Retired Chicopee District Court Judge Mary Hurley and Attorney Jeffrey Morneau, President of the Hampden County Bar Assocaition are competing in the Democratic primary, which will all but determine who the next councilor will be.

The position should go to a steady hand who will apply a fair consideration of appointees’ quality and bring dignity to a body sometimes better known—when it is known at all—for its hijinks rather being a high office. In our estimate, that person is Mary Hurley.

Mary Hurley (via Twitter/@electmaryhurley)

This race has been heated. There is palpable tension between Hurley, a former Springfield mayor and councilor, and Morneau, who has a legal partnership in the city. There has been high-minded debate, but also exchange of accusations and rumor.

Morneau, by all appearances, is an earnest individual. He has no nefarious agenda, but we question his emphasis. As a general matter, this blog does not fancy judicial litmus tests, but we concur with Morneau’s—support for marriage equality, access to abortion, and the commonwealth’s lack of a death penalty. Hurley agrees.

Yet, Morneau repeats this point practically by rote, even though the prospect of Massachusetts’s Supreme Judicial Court backtracking on these matters is remote. True progressivism does not manifest itself like this. Preserving these legal precedents is crucial, but in 30 years there has been no serious attack on the SJC’s aversion to the death penalty. The US Supreme Court has ruled recently in favor of same-sex marriage and abortion. The SJC cannot overturn that.

Jeff Morneau (via Facebook/Morneau campaign)

Massachusetts courts, and the SJC in particular, have been national judicial leaders because of their scholarly and faithful commitment to the state constitution and its values. That was why the SJC led on marriage equality and the death penalty. The next round of groundbreaking legal precedent will be found among those who appreciate this legal legacy and approve nominees suited to carry it on.

After nearly 20 years on the bench, Hurley can provide that perspective. We have confidence her appreciation of Massachusetts’s legal history and precedential impact will guide her votes to the right place.

This blog, which supports the rights of the accused, acknowledges the criminal defense bar’s support for Morneau. However, in our mind, the best way to preserve the commonwealth’s more enlightened positions, relative to the federal precedent, is to confirm judges that uphold the law, as Hurley has pledged.

The John Adams Courthouse in Boston, seat of the SJC (and the Appeals Court). (WMassP&I)

The John Adams Courthouse in Boston, seat of the SJC (and the Appeals Court). (WMassP&I)

We have other concerns. Morneau has repeatedly accused Hurley of opposing granting any pardons. Such a position would be disqualifying, were only it true. Reporters whom we trust have disputed Morneau’s claim. Hurley made her now famous “cold day in Hell” comments about one since withdrawn pardon request, Mark Wahlberg’s.

In a debate, Hurley asserted she came to that position after reviewing the actor’s case, a racially-motivated act of violence. Reasonable people can disagree about Wahlberg, but Morneau should not be rewarded with votes for, in our mind, misrepresenting what Hurley said.

Morneau has critiqued Hurley’s pension on top of which she would receive, if elected, a salary for governor’s council. This is fair game politically, but does not disqualify her from public service. Hurley invested in the system and is of retirement age. Moreover, she has described to this blog plans to forego the recently approved $10,000 raise for the Council and give it to a charity.

Hurley’s no-nonsense approach on the bench may not have always won friends, but we feel it is exactly what the discordant Governor’s Council needs.

Mary Hurley for Govenor's Council

Mary Hurley for Govenor’s Council (via Facebook/Hurley campaign)

On THURSDAY September 8, we recommend Mary Hurley for Governor’s Council.