The Executive Branch

The Massachusetts Constitution, Part the Second, Chapter II, Section I, Article IX, expressly reserves power to the Governor to nominate and appoint all judicial officers, including clerk-magistrates, “by and with the advice and consent” of the Executive Council (more commonly referred to as the Governor’s Council). The Governor’s Council is an elected body comprised of eight members, elected every two years, representing eight regions, each drawn up of five contiguous state senate districts.


Although there is neither a constitutional nor a statutory mandate that a Governor do so, every Governor in recent history has appointed a body to assist them in selecting suitable individuals for appointment to the bench. In 1975, Governor Michael Dukakis was the first Governor to formalize a merit-based selection process with the ideal of removing partisan and political influence over the process. Hence, Governor Dukakis promulgated an Executive Order (E.O.) establishing a Judicial Nominating Council (JNC).[1] Each Governor, since 1975, has placed their own mark on the composition and function of similar formal screening committees through a series of subsequent Executive Orders.  Presently, Executive Order Number 477 governs the process that an individual judicial aspirant must follow to become a judge.[2] It should be noted however that a Governor is not bound by an executive order and may ignore it at will.

[1] See Executive Order No. 114 issued January 3, 1975.

[2] See Executive Order No. 477 (07-1) issued January 12, 2007.

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