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Judge resigns from New Bedford District Court, lawyer cites health

A New Bedford District Court judge has resigned “with regret” from the bench, according to a letter he recently sent to Governor Maura Healey.

“With regret, and effective Friday, November 10, 2023, I am resigning from my position as an Associate Justice of the District Court,” Judge Douglas J. Darnbrough wrote in the two-line letter, a portion of which was redacted in the copy that Healey’s office provided to the Globe.

The letter was dated Nov. 2. Darnbrough, listed on the official state court website as first justice of New Bedford District Court, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.


His lawyer, Ed Ryan, said in a brief phone interview Wednesday that Darnbrough is resigning for health reasons.

“My understanding is that all of his judicial evaluations were excellent, and he was generally regarded as a very good judge,” Ryan said.

Ryan said Darnbrough’s resignation will in fact take effect on Dec. 30 and that he plans to submit an amended resignation letter.

Jennifer Donahue, a spokesperson for the Massachusetts Trial Court said in a statement that Darnbrough has been assigned to Region 1.

“Judge Darnbrough was First Justice in New Bedford; Judge Joseph Harrington is Acting First Justice in New Bedford at this time,” Donahue said via email.

His resignation comes after a widely circulated letter was sent in September to the state Committee on Public Counsel Services, the state public defender agency. The anonymous letter accused Darnbrough of misconduct that, if substantiated, could affect some cases he heard. The Globe has reviewed a copy of the letter but has not been able to verify the allegations.

Both Ryan and Donahue declined to comment on the anonymous letter, and the judge hasn’t spoken publicly on the matter.

When the Globe asked court officials early last month about Darnbrough’s status, Donahue said he was on vacation. She later said that when he returned he would be hearing cases in Plymouth rather than New Bedford. She declined to answer additional questions at the time.


On Monday, an employee who answered the phone in the judges’ lobby at Plymouth District Court said Darnbrough was again on vacation.

On Wednesday, Robert McGovern, a spokesperson for the state’s public defender agency, said “we have not received anything official about this judge’s resignation but plan [on] seeking confirmation.”

“We will make decisions about any appropriate and necessary subsequent action that would address our clients’ rights,” he said in a statement.

In 2016, the state Governor’s Council narrowly approved Darnbrough’s judicial nomination, State House News Service reported at the time.

After the council deadlocked 4-4, Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito called a recess, keeping the vote open and giving Governor Charlie Baker time to arrive in the hearing room. Within minutes, Baker arrived and took over the meeting, allowing Polito to vote to break the tie, SHNS reported.

After the vote, Baker said Darnbrough is “more than qualified” for a judgeship, according to the news service.

“There was a difference of opinion among the councilors,” Baker told reporters afterward, according to SHNS. “I think the gentleman whose nomination was in front of the council spent almost 20 years as a private practitioner in solo practice, working [in] exactly the district court environment that this particular seat is about.”

Matt Stout of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.


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