Council Digs Into Duffly At SJC Confirmation Hearing

By Sarah Birnbaum

Jan. 20, 2011

BOSTON — Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Nominee Fernande Duffly is facing a bumpy reception from the Governor's Council, who will vote to confirm her nomination to the state's highest court.

Gov. Deval Patrick nominated Duffly to replace Roderick Ireland, who recently was elevated to chief justice after a comparatively smooth confirmation hearing.  

In contrast to the Ireland confirmation, Duffly's Wednesday confirmation hearing showed some real digging by the 8-member Governor’s Council.

Councilors raised a number of objections during the 6 hour hearing. At one point, Councilor Thomas Merrigan accused Duffly of ignoring a false confession in an arson case, saying that he found her silence on the point troubling.

?“This omission to me comes close to fictionalizing the record.  And I wonder if you can help me feel better about this.”

Duffly responded that she was following appropriate precedent in that case.
Duffly also found herself on the defensive when it came to her child custody decisions.

One witness, Patrick McCabe of the Massachusetts fathers group, the Fatherhood Coalition, testified that Duffly repeatedly allowed divorced mothers to move out of town with their children, preventing
fathers from being involved in their kids’ daily life.

But Duffly rejected the notion that she was in any way biased against men.  She said she has a profound appreciation for fathers, which stems from her own personal background.

 “I had a wonderful father, who although he was a traditional father, was a very important factor in my life and we were very close."

The 61 year-old Duffly was born in Indonesia to a Dutch father and Chinese mother. She emigrated to the U.S. at the age of 6, and she started her judicial career on the family and probate court in 1992. Duffly is now a member of the Massachusetts appellate court.

If confirmed, she would make history as the first Asian-American justice to serve on the SJC. The Governor’s Council could vote on her nomination as early as next Wednesday.

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