Careful What You Wish For! Rep Could Have This Court Job for Decades

Friday, July 8, 2011

State Representative Christopher Speranzo, an up and coming Democrat from western Massachusetts, is trading the State House for the Court House.

Gov. Deval Patrick nominated Rep. Speranzo several weeks ago for the vacant clerk magistrate position at the Central Berkshire District Court in the legislator's hometown of Pittsfield, and the Governor's Council confirmed the appointment on an unusually tight 5-4 vote this past Wednesday.

Speranzo almost didn't make it. Half of the eight-member Council opposed the nomination and he collected the vote needed for victory only because Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray relinquished the Council chair to break the tie, as allowed by Council rules.

Knowing Speranzo as a bright and affable young man, (he's 38), and as a well regarded legislator on the leadership track, I was surprised by how vehemently some councilors opposed him.

For example, Mary-Ellen Manning, a fellow Democrat, ripped him for running for re-election last fall and not disclosing that his application for clerk magistrate was pending. As quoted by the State House News Service, Manning told Speranzo at his June 22 confirmation hearing, "You stole their votes. That's what you did. Nobody thinks it's offensive here to be a public servant. Anybody who uses public service and the cloak of public service for their own private gain, I do think is offensive. It was offensive to the voters."

Did Ms. Manning never hear the axiom: You don't quit one job until you have another.

Speranzo's real problem, Councilor Jennie Caissie suggested, is "a glaring lack of experience." She did a full Judge Judy on him, fuming: "In your entire professional career, you've basically been a public employee. You've never received a paycheck that hasn't come from the taxpayers of Massachusetts." (Before entering the legislature, Speranzo served as an assistant attorney general and as Pittsfield's city solicitor.)

That Caissie's hard to impress.

Speranzo graduated from Boston College and Boston College Law School, and holds a master's degree in philosophy from the University of Cambridge, England. He's only been in the legislature since 2005, when he succeeded Peter Larkin in a special election, and already he's the vice chair of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary. Currently, he's also a member of the Joint Committee on Ways and Means, the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing, the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight, and the Special Committee on Redistricting.

Would Caissie have been happier if Speranzo worked nights as a cashier in a parking garage?

But don't feel bad for new Clerk Magistrate Speranzo. He just landed a lifetime appointment to a job that pays $110,000 a year, with health benefits and a pension. The pain of the public spanking he took at the State House on June 22 is quickly fading.

Most of us, and we can definitely put most Governor's Councilors in the "us" category, wonder how we could get a deal like that. How can we, too, go to heaven without dying?

Nevertheless, I suspect that the day will come when Speranzo the Philosopher, the man who never broke his stride in seven years at B.C., is presiding at yet another hearing on yet another totally-insignficant-but-incredibly-nasty dispute or complaint, and wonders if it was really such a good thing that Tim Murray broke the tie on July 6, 2011.

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