Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants says Gov. Charlie Baker “stretched beyond his reach” last month when he called for a district court judge to be barred from presiding over criminal cases amid a federal investigation into her courtroom conduct.
“That was not the happiest moment with regard to the governor to be candid,” Gants, who sits atop the state’s highest court, said in a Thursday interview on Greater Boston.
Last month, Baker called on court officials to temporarily remove Newton District Court Judge Shelley Joseph after learning of a federal grand jury probe into whether she and other court personnel had a hand in helping a twice-deported immigrant evade U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody. The existence of a possible investigation was reported by The Boston Globe.
Speaking to reporters at the time, Baker said he believed Joseph, who he nominated in 2017, should not hear criminal cases until the federal case is resolved.
“The fact of the matter is, we have a governor who is protective of the judiciary. I have a very good relationship with the governor and his legal counsel. But that was a moment in which I think he stretched beyond his reach,” Gants told Jim Braude.
Asked if he’s shared his discontent over the comments with the governor himself, Gants said “I privately communicated my concerns” at the time.
Gants was also quizzed on the state court system’s relationship with ICE and his push for more funding for civil legal aid used to fund legal assistance programs for low-income residents and immigrants under threat of deportation.
Last week, Gants joined lawyers and other advocates who would like to see this year’s budget line item for civil legal aid boosted from $21 million to $26 million. Gants said he’s optimistic that legislators will be receptive to that request.