Wouldn't It Be Great if Judicial Watchdog Lost Its Mind and Actually Said Something?

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Commission on Judicial Conduct has issued a customarily cryptic press release about a misbehaving judge.

The press release made a news blip via the State House News Service. However, when I went looking for the release on the web yesterday, I was unable to find it.  My electronic ferreting skills are not impressive.     
Anyway, here’s a quote from a story based on the release, said story having been posted this past Thursday, Nov. 9, on the State House News Service site (open to paying subscribers only):

“The Commission on Judicial Conduct has admonished a judge for treating a party who appeared before the judge discourteously and for otherwise behaving in a manner that was unbecoming a judicial officer and that brought the judicial office into disrepute, in violation of M.G.L., c. 211C, sec. 2(5).  Through this conduct, the judge failed to be patient, dignified, and courteous to a person appearing before the judge, in violation of Canon 3B(4) of the Code of Judicial Conduct then in effect.  The judge agreed to be monitored by the commission and meet with a mentor judge for a period of one year from the effective date of the Agreed Disposition.”
The brief story contained this exchange between a State House News Service reporter and Howard V. Neff, III, executive director of the commission: 

“Asked why the commission did not disclose the name of the judge, commission executive director Howard Neff, III, told the State House News Service, ‘I’m not going to discuss that.’  Asked if there was any additional information available on the case, Mr. Neff said, ‘There is none.’ “ 
It’s better to be a judge in trouble in Massachusetts than an average citizen because your neighbors, skeptical in-laws, creditors, and high school classmates are more likely to find out about your bad moment in the sun if you’re an average citizen.

For instance, if you live in a small town and are arrested on a Saturday afternoon for, say, idle and disorderly conduct outside your local supermarket following a verbal confrontation with a crusty old gent over a parking spot, there’s an excellent chance your name will appear in the next edition of your hometown weekly, well before you would get the opportunity to clear your name in court.  Guilty or not, you’d be known forever as the old man abuser. 
The stated policy of the Commission on Judicial Conduct regarding a judge in their crosshairs is not to release the judge’s name unless and until formal charges are filed against him/her with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

Back in June, I wrote about this policy in a blog post headlined, “Official Report Leaves One Eager to Know More about ‘Racially Insensitive’ Judge.”  That post was based on the case of a judge who had reportedly made “insensitive racial comments” to another judge, as described in the commission’s 2016 annual report.  The judge to whom the comments were made reported the conversation to his supervisor. The commission then began an investigation, at the end of which the judge who had allegedly been insensitive retired.  “Because of this complaint and for family health reasons,” the 2016 annual report said, “the judge retired and agreed not to seek appointment as a recall judge.” That post may be found at:

As I was messing around on the Internet yesterday, I happened upon a commission press release headlined, “Massachusetts Commission on Judicial Conduct Resolves Complaint Against Retired Judge Michael C. Creedon through Agreed Disposition.”  The complete text of that release follows:

BOSTON, MA (October 17, 2016) – The Commission on Judicial Conduct has entered into an Agreed Disposition with the former First Justice of the Falmouth District Court, retired Judge Michael C. Creedon, pursuant to M.G.L. c.211C, sec. 8(1), in response to a complaint alleging that he made insensitive racial comments to another judge while in the judges’ lobby of the Falmouth District Court, in June of 2016, in violation of Rules 1, 2, 2.2, 2.3(A), 2.3(B), and 2.8(B) of the Code of Judicial Conduct.

Because of this complaint and for family health reasons, Judge Creedon retired as a judge on September 19, 2016 and has agreed not to seek appointment as a recall justice.

The Commission’s statute and Rules are available on the Commonwealth’s website: www.mass.gov/cjc
I found this quite interesting because:
ONE, there is a statement, under the heading “Confidentiality,” in the commission’s 2016 annual report that goes, verbatim, like this: “The statute and rules that govern the Commission on Judicial Conduct require that the complaint and all Commission proceedings remain confidential, unless and until the Commission files Formal Charges with the Supreme Judicial Court. (There are certain limited exceptions to this requirement.) This strict confidentiality includes all communications made to and by the Commission or its staff...”
TWO, the commission included an account of the investigation of the racially insensitive remarks in its 2016 annual report, which came out on April 28, 2017.  Pointedly, that account did not provide the name of Judge Creedon, leading one to infer that the name had been omitted because formal charges were never filed against the judge with the state’s top court.  And yet, the commission had issued a press release (copy above), apparently on the date of Oct. 17, 2016, in which Judge Creedon was identified.
Was this one of those “certain limited exceptions” to the commission’s confidentiality rule? Or was something else going on? 
I will not wait by my phone for an explanatory call from the not-exactly-garrulous Mr. Neff.

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