Elected clerks aren’t the only politicians with an undue role in the judicial system. Usually, the eight-member Governor’s Council has seemed like a little-noticed vestige of colonial times, like a Latin motto. But now, thanks to a few councilors whose clownish antics have been an embarrassment to the state, it doesn’t seem quite so harmless. The council has become a deterrent to qualified judicial applicants who don’t want to run through this gantlet of grandstanding. It’s past time to abolish the body, and transfer its few responsibilities to the Legislature.
The council was set up by King Charles I and enshrined in the state constitution post-independence by John Adams. The panel envisioned by Adams had broad-reaching powers over the governor, analagous to a legislative body. Since then, however, its authority has shrunk to almost nothing. Approving judges and clerk magistrates is virtually all that’s left. The council meets only once a week, sometimes for just a few minutes.