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Race for seat prompts another hard look at the Governor’s Council

William Allen (left, foreground) addressed the Governor's Council with his attorney Kristine McDonald during a Feb. 1 commutation hearing.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

Longtime incumbent is due for a challenge

I am grateful to Yvonne Abraham for highlighting the little-understood but vital role of Governor’s Councilors in the state’s criminal justice system and, especially, the embarrassing performance of our 23-year incumbent from the Third District, Councilor Marilyn Petitto Devaney (“Primary importance,” Metro, Aug. 21).

I served seven years on the Judicial Nominating Commission as one of the 21 lawyers who reviewed and interviewed potential judges for Governor Deval Patrick. I observed up-close the significance of the Governor’s Council. It can veto the governor’s nominees to be judges, court clerks, and members of the Parole Board, among others. It decides pardons and commutations and much more.


The incumbent complains that governors nominate their cronies and their big donors, but Patrick nominated qualified, capable, and diverse lawyers — and the incumbent voted against confirming several of them.

The District 3 challenger, Mara Dolan, is a public defender who brings demonstrated commitment to racial and criminal justice to this work. The Third District spans 32 cities and towns, including much of Boston and Cambridge, Arlington, Belmont, Brookline, Burlington, Concord, Lexington, Lincoln, Newton, and Watertown.

We deserve better. Dolan will add dignity and a deep understanding of both what it takes to sit on the bench and how justice is done. The Sept. 6 primary will decide this race. Please vote for change.

Cathleen Cavell


A new face wouldn’t do much to rid council of old habits

Contrary to what Yvonne Abraham suggested in her column Sunday, Marilyn Devaney’s defeat would not bring big change to the Governor’s Council. Far from it. Having attended several Governor’s Council meetings and testified in the past few months, I can say that most council members’ votes appear to be “politics and horse trading,” as Devaney pointed out. Council members routinely miss meetings, walk in and out of hearings, text on their phones, and do business. And they can be seriously disrespectful to the public.


When I testified against a nominee for the Parole Board, a council member interrupted me to say I shouldn’t be wasting their time, since they knew more about the Parole Board than I did — and that council member was not Devaney. Not what one would expect at a public hearing.

The Governor’s Council wields enormous power. It votes on the governor’s picks for judges and the Parole Board and on recommendations for commutations and pardons. It’s high time voters paid attention to this body so that councilors can be held accountable for their behavior.

Lisa Berland


The writer is a member of the advocacy group Parole Watch.