Desmond a “great fit for our place,” judge tells council

Judge Kenneth Desmond, nominated by Gov. Charlie Baker to a seat on the Appeals Court, appeared before the Governor's Council Wednesday for a confirmation hearing. [Photo: Katie Lannan/SHNS]

BOSTON (STATE HOUSE) – One of Gov. Charlie Baker’s recent nominees to the state Appeals Court would bring key trial experience to that bench, according to one of its sitting justices.

During Superior Court Judge Kenneth Desmond’s confirmation hearing on Wednesday, Appeals Court Judge Sydney Hanlon told the Governor’s Council that she started “trying to recruit” him to the Appeals Court a few years ago.

“I thought that experience in the Trial Court, that energy, that intelligence and plus the extra variety of experience he had in the Superior Court would make him a great fit for our place,” Hanlon said. “We’ve lost a lot of trial judges in the last few years and while you need a diversity of experience, we need that experience, I believe, in particular.”

Baker on July 27 nominated Desmond, Superior Court Judge James Lemire, state solicitor Peter Sacks and assistant attorney general Sookyoung Shin to seats on the Appeals Court. Desmond is the first of the four to come before the eight-member council for a hearing.

With 24 associate justices and one chief justice, the Appeals Court is an intermediate appellate court that hears most appeals from the trial courts and administrative bodies.

“I believe that a career of public service has postured me for this position,” Desmond told the Governor’s Council, citing his experience arguing as a prosecutor, presiding over a drug court and hearing complex civil cases.

After graduating from Tufts University and Boston College Law School, Desmond began his legal career in 1990 as an assistant district attorney for Suffolk County and later served as deputy chief legal counsel for the Middlesex County sheriff.

Gov. Mitt Romney appointed Desmond to the Boston Municipal Court in 2005. Desmond served as presiding justice of the Dorchester Drug Court from 2007 until taking a seat on the Superior Court in 2012.

Desmond’s pastor, who described him at his 2012 Superior Court confirmation hearing as one of the “greatest people I have met in my lifetime,” returned to testify on Desmond’s behalf Wednesday.

“One of the things that I love about Judge Desmond is that he is a patient person and he listens extremely well,” Wayne Gaydie, the pastor of the Emmanuel Baptist Church in Malden, told the council. “He is very centered and he makes good decisions.”

Under questioning by Councilor Robert Jubinville of Milton, Desmond said he is against the death penalty and “all for” same-sex marriage and a woman’s right to choose with regards to abortion.

“I think it’s her business, her decision,” Desmond said. “She’s her own person.”

Desmond said he is “not a huge fan” of mandatory minimum sentences because he does not “believe any two cases are the same.”

Asked by Jubinville if he would refuse to impose a mandatory minimum sentence if he believed it to be unfair in a particular case, Desmond replied that he would “have to follow the law.”

“There are instances where my hands are tied, and it’s a function of the Legislature to change if they feel injustice is being done,” Desmond said.

Jubinville said the state needs judges who will “speak out” against practices in the justice system they find to be unfair.

“Nobody can fire you, the best they can do is transfer you out to Springfield and Pittsfield, and you’ll love it out there,” he said, drawing laughs.

Copyright 2016 State House News Service

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