MBA Past President Edward P. Ryan Jr. has been appointed chair of the Joint Bar Committee on Judicial Appointments, an independent and nonpartisan committee charged with reviewing and voting in confidence on the competence of judicial nominees.
Ryan was first appointed to the JBC in 2006 by immediate Past President Mark D Mason and will serve as JBC chair through the end of August 2008. Ryan’s experience in judicial appointments goes back nearly 15 years. He was a member of the nominating committee for statewide juvenile court and sat on former Gov. Mitt Romney’s Judicial Nominating Commission for three years.
“The JBC doesn’t owe its allegiance to any particular organization or party, so it’s really an independent assessment of potential judicial nominees,” Ryan said. “I think that’s the most significant thing.”
The JBC, which reviews candidates for all judicial appointments to all courts of the commonwealth, is made up of two dozen attorneys from across the state, including three members each of the Massachusetts and Boston bar associations. Members also include representatives from 13 county and six specialty bars. Each serves a three-year term.
“The JBC is the last confidential review of an individual candidate for the judiciary,” Ryan said. “We review their written materials, conduct our own due diligence, discuss the appointee. We make a decision about whether the person is well qualified for judicial appointment.”
The JBC has 21 days from the start of its review to present a report to the governor and/or the Governor’s Council, which must approve and appoint the candidate. The JBC takes a vote on the candidate that can range from “well qualified” to “insufficient information to evaluate.” If the vote is unfavorable, a candidate can request an appearance before the JBC.
Ryan said such a thorough review is important because “an appointment to the bench is a lifelong appointment.” The JBC, he said, works hard to ensure candidates are well screened. “You do the best you can to find the most qualified individuals,” Ryan said.
“The Joint Bar Committee provides the governor with an in-depth confidential review of potential nominees by a completely independent group of practitioners beholden to no one,” MBA General Counsel Martin W. Healy said. “Many gubernatorial administrations have viewed this as providing an essential layer of legitimacy to these lifetime appointments. Ed Ryan’s service as JBC chair ensures this hallmark of independence to the committee.”
Ryan is also chair of the MBA Committee on Judicial Independence and a member of the association’s Criminal Justice Section Council. He is a managing partner at O’Connor and Ryan PC in Fitchburg.
For more information on the JBC, visit www.massbar.org and select “Joint Bar Committee” from the “Legislative activities” section.