Ayer, Nantucket Judicial Nominees Confirmed
Councilors Flag Riddle Donations to Polito
2/12/20 4:40 PM
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, FEB. 12, 2020.....The Governor's Council on Wednesday minted two new clerk magistrates, a position that comes with a lifetime appointment, for the Ayer and Nantucket courts.
Damian Riddle, a Massachusetts School of Law graduate who owns his own law practice in Fitchburg, was approved on a 4-2 vote as Ayer District Court clerk magistrate, after one councilor voiced concerns about the application process for the job and the nominee's campaign contributions to Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito.
Councilor Marilyn Devaney asserted that an acting clerk magistrate who has worked in the Ayer office for more than a decade attempted to apply for the top post but was passed over by the Judicial Nominating Commission, a panel that forwards suggested judicial candidates to Gov. Charlie Baker. Devaney said the JNC "does not seem to want someone so experienced to interview."
Interview invitations are issued after a "blind review" of applicants, according to the governor's office.
Devaney also brought up donations Riddle made to the campaign fund of Polito, who chairs the council's weekly meetings.
Councilor Robert Jubinville said Riddle will "make a fine clerk" as someone who has been "in the trenches of the court system," and countered, "I never believe that somebody gets a position by giving somebody a political contribution. Maybe a large amount like $100,000 might get you something."
After joining Devaney in voting against Riddle's confirmation Wednesday, Councilor Eileen Duff said she had questioned Riddle about his political donations. Duff pointed to a $500 donation from Riddle to Polito's campaign in 2019, which Duff said came around a month before applications for the Ayer post were due. He also donated $350 to Polito in 2017, according to OCPF reports.
"And then he tells me he has no relationship with Karyn Polito ... He's either fibbing and not being completely truthful, or he has bad judgement, both of which disqualify him for this job," Duff said.
Riddle's $500 donation is recorded on Polito's June 14, 2019 deposit report. He applied to be a clerk magistrate in July 2019, according to the governor's office.
Clerk magistrate candidates cannot make political donations to the governor, lieutenant governor, or councilors after they apply for the position, according to an executive order of Gov. Baker.
Also Wednesday, the council unanimously approved Donald Hart's return to Nantucket District Court, where he will serve his second stint as the island's clerk magistrate following what the governor's office termed a "brief professional hiatus."
Clerk magistrates in Massachusetts may serve continuously until they die; Riddle is 46 years old, and Hart is 64, according to Governor's Council records.
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