STATE CAPITOL BRIEFS - LUNCH EDITION - MONDAY, JULY 7, 2014

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

JUVENILE SENTENCING, AUTISM BILLS ON SENATE AGENDA

New versions of two bills that have already cleared the House this year are up for potential votes in the Senate on Tuesday. The House in June voted 127-16 for a juvenile sentencing reform bill (H 4184) drafted after the courts struck down life sentences without parole for certain juvenile offenders. Under the Senate bill, individuals who were under the age of 18 when they committed murder would be eligible for parole after serving prison sentences of 20 to 30 years. If parole is denied, the bill creates a "setback period" in which the inmates would have to wait up to 10 years until their next parole hearing, according to Sen. William Brownsberger. The Belmont Democrat, who is the Senate chair of the Judiciary Committee, said the bill takes a "responsible approach." Some activists, including the Coalition for Fair Sentencing of Youth, have been pushing for 15 years for juvenile murderers and the current five-year "setback period." The Criminal Justice Policy Coalition on Monday circulated an email calling for the sentencing bill to be "stopped in its tracks" and announcing plans to gather Tuesday morning at the State House to oppose the bill. The Senate plans to also tackle legislation (S 2245) aimed at assisting individuals with autism or other developmental disabilities - the House in April unanimously approved its version of that bill (H 4047). The Senate met briefly Monday, adjourning before noon. - G. Dumcius/SHNS

PROSECUTION: REP FELT SPECIAL TREATMENT GIVEN TO PROBATION

In 2007, when he was majority leader and vying for the speakership, Rep. John Rogers "took a walk" and skipped a vote on a fiscal year 2008 budget override because he believed "probation was being treated as a sacred cow due to its hiring practices," according to prosecutors aiming to prove a case against three former probation officials. With limited time, Judge William Young told lawyers in the case Monday morning he didn't think Rogers "adds much." Federal prosecutors are up against the wall with dwindling time remaining to finish their presentation of evidence that hiring processes were subverted to ensure people with political backing received jobs. Though Young will rule on a motion to reconsider the timeframe Monday afternoon, the prosecution has only 4 hours and 45 minutes left. In an argument for more time, prosecutor Robert Fisher laid out an "offer of proof" with the remaining witnesses the prosecution plans to call and what they will say. Former Probation Commissioner John O'Brien and two of his former deputies, Elizabeth Tavares and William Burke III, have pleaded not guilty. [Story Developing] | - A. Metzger/SHNS

PITTSFIELD ATTORNEY POISED FOR BERKSHIRE DISTRICT COURT POST

Lee's James Rota is on track to fill a Southern Berkshire District Court judgeship, if confirmed by the Governor's Council. Rota is poised to fill the seat on the beach created by the retirement of Judge James McElroy. Gov. Deval Patrick on July 2 nominated Rota, a sole practitioner in Pittsfield since 2000 and an associate and partner at the Pittsfield firm of Cain, Hibbard, Myers & Cook from 1986 to 2000. A graduate of Union College and Boston College Law School, Rota was an assistant district attorney in Berkshire County from 1983 to 1986. - M. Norton/SHNS

SPRINGFIELD HEARING PLANNED ON JUDICIAL NOMINEE

The Governor's Council plans a rare gathering in Springfield next week to take public testimony on Chicopee District Court nominee William O'Grady of Westhampton, who was nominated to the bench on July 2, by Gov. Deval Patrick. Councilor Michael Albano announced the plans on Monday, saying councilors Jennie Caissie of oxford and Robert Jubinville of Milton plan to attend the 4:45 p.m. hearing at 4:45 p.m. Monday, July 14 at Springfield City Hall. "This hearing will bring Boston to western Massachusetts for the first time by the council and allow citizens an opportunity to speak directly on this important position in the judiciary," Albano said in a statement, noting Comcast plans to televise the hearing live. O'Grady has practiced civil and criminal law at Parker & O'Grady in Southampton and Springfield since 1985. Before that he worked as a litigation associate at the Springfield firm Cohen, Rosenthal, Price, Mirkin, Jennings & Berg. He has been associate city solicitor in Chicopee since 1986 and in Westfield since 2009. If confirmed, O'Grady would fill a vacancy on the court expected due to the upcoming retirement of Judge Mary Hurley. The formal confirmation hearing for O'Grady is scheduled for Wednesday, July 16 at the State House. - M. Norton/SHNS