Attorney General Maura Healey on Thursday called for more transparency in the judicial system regarding the secret meetings used to determine if there’s enough evidence to bring a criminal complaint, but she stopped short of criticizing the process altogether.
The off-the-record hearings, known as show-cause hearings, were first reported on by The Boston Globe’s Spotlight team in September and involve closed-door meetings with clerk magistrates and a person suspected of a crime. In some cases, the Globe reported, the magistrates, despite evidence of a serious crime, declined to issue charges.
“I don’t think you need to get rid of the entire process, to be honest with you. Is there a place for greater transparency and certainly the recording of information? Absolutely. And I think that’s what I’ve encouraged the trial courts to consider,” Healey told Jim Braude on Greater Boston.
Healey said their clerk magistrates play an important role in the criminal justice system and that hundreds of proceedings happen every day. She added that the trial courts are currently conducting a review of the proceeding’s practices.
Healey also addressed topics related to the Catholic Church, her latest legal challenge against the Trump administration and the president’s pick to run the Justice Department.
Asked about the president’s nominee for attorney general, William Barr, amid news that he was critical of the Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, Healey was skeptical of Barr’s ability to stay impartial on the probe.
“Here we’ve got potentially an attorney general who is going to step in and oversee [the investigation] who has been explicit about his dislike and his disdain of that investigation, and he’s going to have control," Healey said. "To me, this has never been a partisan issue … It’s about standing up for the rule of law and ensuring that we have a department of justice that the public can have faith in, can have trust in."
Reacting to the news out of Illinois, where the state’s attorney general issued a report alleging the Catholic Church withheld the names of hundreds of priests credibly accused of sexual abuse, Healey said, “Rome doesn’t get it.”
Healey said her office is in the middle of an ongoing review of the dioceses in Massachusetts but would not offer specifics when pressed for details.
Healey, known for either filing or joining more than 30 lawsuits against President Donald Trump, also discussed her latest legal action against the administration.
She said Massachusetts has joined a multi-state lawsuit to defend the state against the administration’s push for offshore drilling off the Atlantic coast. The legal challenge is in reaction to the administration green-lighting seismic tests on the sea floor that are used to assess the potential for oil and gas production.
“This is about making sure that we don’t have a Deepwater Horizon spill on the Atlantic seaboard that’s going to decimate tourism, our ocean environment, a huge industry,” Healey said.
Healey will begin her second four-year term in January after winning re-election in November.