House Bill 3840: ‘Proposal for a Legislative Amendment to the Constitution to Require Reappointment of Judges Every 5 Years’ was sponsored by Representative Orlando Ramos and Carlos Gonzalez and cosponsored by Representative Bud Williams.
Mayor Sarno states, “Coming off the heels of two public safety neighborhood evening meetings with our Forest Park Civic Association and the Armoury Quadrangle Civic Association, where I interacted with the residents for over five hours, that they are, as I am, at ‘wits end’ with our judicial system and Judges who continue to release violent repeat offenders. In addition, as a follow up to a press conference earlier this week with the Springfield Police Department that another gun toting (ghost gun) repeat violent offender was released again only to be rearrested with an AR-15. We need a better checks and balance system. We need accountability for our residents and business community to keep our neighborhoods and streets safe.”
“Some of our Judges need to know and respect the pleads and cries from our residents,” Mayor Sarno added. “I hear them – they need to hear it too.”
State Representative Ramos stated, “Massachusetts General Law governing the length of judicial appointments have not been updated since the Massachusetts Constitution was enacted in 1780. In Massachusetts, judges are appointed for life. The decisions they make on a regular basis carry great consequence, altering people’s lives and affecting our society. This huge responsibility should also come with a high level of accountability. What is required of judges today is far different than what it was in 1780; and the accountability should match the responsibility.”
State Representative Gonzalez said, “We have great Judges in Massachusetts, however we lack diversity. Therefore, it’s incumbent on us to establish a review process for Judges, their decisions on bail and sentencing in an equitable manner.”
In addition to outdated legislation, the Representatives Ramos and Gonzalez cite racial equity as a reason to address judicial accountability.
Representative Ramos continued stating that a study into racial disparities in the Massachusetts criminal system conducted by Harvard Law, submitted in September of 2020 found that Black and Latino people are overrepresented in the criminal caseload compared to their population in the state. The study found that White people make up roughly 74% of the Massachusetts population while accounting for 58.7% of cases in their data. Meanwhile, Black people make up just 6.5% of the Massachusetts population and account for 17.1% of cases. Latinos are similarly overrepresented, making up 8.7% of the Massachusetts population but 18.3% of the cases in the sample. The study also concluded that among those sentenced to incarceration, Black and Latino people sentenced to incarceration receive longer sentences than their White counterparts.
State Representative Bud Williams stated, “As we continue discussions on public safety reform, we must also look at our Judicial System, from the Trial Courts to Probation Services, and how we can enhance our legal system for the betterment of all our residents. We as legislators are tasked to making sure that there is a fair and equitable system in place to properly review the decisions made by our courts not just on bail but sentencing, inclusion and equity.”
HB 3840 is currently pending before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary.
Representative Orlando Ramos also filed a separate bill which would create a special commission on judicial accountability to study the nomination, selection, appointment, and oversight of judges in the Commonwealth and to develop recommendations to improve accountability including reappointment standards.