A retired judge voting on Gov. Charlie Baker’s judicial appointments tore up the governor’s last choice for district court on Wednesday, swarming the candidate over his level of experience and unfamiliarity with the court.
Gov. Advisor Mary Hurley, a former Chicopee District Court judge and mayor of Springfield, said she had “significant concerns” about Andrew Abdella’s inexperience in criminal law and went so far as tell him that he “didn’t know the first thing” about the District Court.
Abdella has worked for the past decade as a general counsel in the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office where he supervised 60 employees and litigated cases involving civil rights, medical malpractice and personal injury, according to his resume.
“So you want to be a district court judge, and you know full well that district courts deal with criminal cases a lot more often, and have daily sessions involving criminal cases, and you haven’t picked up a single book?” Hurley said, asking Abdella for specific titles of criminal law texts he may have studied recently in preparation for his new job. “Not recently, Advisor,” he replied.
The four-hour public hearing became tense as Hurley peppered Abdella with questions, occasionally asking if he could define or explain particular motions that may arise in criminal proceedings.
Hurley also asked if he had been to a district court to observe other judges at work since his application for the post in 2019, or if he had spoken to sitting judges. Reluctant to name a name at first, Abdella said he spoke with Fitchburg District Court presiding judge Chris LoConto.
“OK, a friend of yours,” Hurley said. “And I spoke to him too. And he admitted that you didn’t – don’t – deal with the criminal court, the district court matters. But you were a good guy, and you could catch up with him, ”Hurley said with a raised eyebrow. at the candidate.
Abdella has spent most of his professional career as an attorney general under the direction of Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis, a former Republican member of Massachusetts House. He was previously Deputy Legal Counsel to the City of Worcester for five years, a post he recently left Suffolk Law in 2006, and taught as an Assistant at Mount Wachusett Community College in 2016.
Appointed Special Sheriff in 2017 in addition to his legal duties, Abdella now oversees all inmate programs and services, including a drug treatment program and a college course to prepare inmates for the manufacturing job market. once they are released.
“The most rewarding part of this job is going to the degrees we have for the drug addiction program … and hearing the men stand up and say, ‘I never won something like this before. I’m ready to be a father, I’m ready to find a job, I’m ready to return to society. It inspires me to be here today, “said Abdella.
He graduated in 1999 from Holy Cross, which is also his father’s alma mater, retired District Court Judge Charles Abdella. The candidate’s wife works as the chief probation officer at the Fitchburg District Court.
“It wasn’t my father who inspired me to become a judge,” Abdella said Wednesday. “If anything, being a judge made me think it was something I couldn’t do. It was working in the sheriff’s department, and working in our [rehabilitation] program, and seeing men change their lives is what sparked the passion in me. “
Asked by a few councilors, Abdella said his experience in the district court included porter’s license appeal hearings, personal injury and “lack of path” cases, much of it from his time as an attorney for the city. from Worcester.
Asked about his knowledge of the 209-A restraining orders, an example of a common question in district courts, Abdella was unable to give details and said he would “consult the guidelines used in court” if such a request was submitted to it. Hurley replied that he wouldn’t have time.
“You will have time to research each problem in each case? And go through this book and this book? Without previous experience? You want the citizens of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to pay you $ 190,000 a year to teach you how to become a District Judge of court. Because you don’t know the first thing about it, do you? “
The candidate replied: “I think we can agree to disagree, counselor … I believe I discussed my experience in the district court.”
“All you said was you don’t have one. Other than tiny and minor administrative matters,” replied Hurley, adding that she thought he would be better suited as an administrative judge or labor judge.
Councilor Marilyn Devaney said: “You are going to Worcester. You are not going to Dover, you are going to Worcester. And we know the heavy burden of criminal cases they have there.”
Councilor Terry Kennedy rebuffed criticism from his colleagues a bit. Kennedy said most of the rules of evidence in civil cases would apply to criminal cases as well, and said medical malpractice cases against the sheriff’s department would have been “very complicated.”
Before applying for the district court job in 2019, Abdella applied to the Baker administration in 2018 to become clerk of the Dudley District Court, a position for which Baker ultimately chose Republican Gov.’s adviser Jennie Caissie.
Devaney called Abdella’s request “the most unique” she had seen in 21 years on the board and said she was torn between good character and inexperience.
“All I can say is I’m going to pray for that, I’m going to tell you,” Devaney said.
Councilor Eileen Duff spoke with Abdella about the mentoring and rehabilitation programs he was involved in, and said she understood Hurley’s concerns and would need to “think a lot” about whether to place Abdella on the job. bench would be a “good risk to the Commonwealth”.
“I have to say, I think you could be one of those rare birds that can give us a perspective that we deeply and sorely need. And there is a risk in that,” Duff said.