State Representative Claire D. Cronin, a Democrat representing
the 11th Plymouth District, is the new House chair of the Joint
Committee on the Judiciary, after her appointment this term by
House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo. Her new role is a prestigious
leadership position that is of vital importance to the bench and
bar. Cronin was first elected to the Massachusetts House of
Representatives for the 11th Plymouth District, which includes both
Brockton and Easton, on Nov. 6, 2012.
Cronin began her career at Wynn and Wynn PC in Raynham, and she
went on to maintain a sole practice in Brockton up until the time
she was sworn in as a member of the House of Representatives. She
has been affiliated with Commonwealth Mediation since 2002, where
she has arbitrated and mediated cases involving a wide range of
issues, most notably the landmark settlement of the Massachusetts
clergy sexual abuse cases.
"Representative Cronin brings a wealth of legal experience to
her new leadership role, including more than a decade of working as
a mediator and arbitrator," said MBA Chief Legal Counsel Martin W.
Healy. "In fact, her work as a neutral on emotionally charged and
complex issues offers a glimpse at what may be her most valuable
skill - the ability to bring people to a consensus."
Cronin previously served as vice chair of the Joint Committee on
the Judiciary where she worked on key legislation in the committee,
including family law, civil rights issues and legislation
criminalizing the trafficking of Fentanyl. Cronin also served on
the Joint Committee on Ways and Means, the Joint Committee on
Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, the House Committee on
Post Audit and Oversight, the Joint Committee on Economic
Development and Emerging Technology, and the Joint Committee on
Veterans and Federal Affairs.
Well-regarded by the bar, Cronin earned the 2016 MATA
Legislative Leadership award from the Massachusetts Academy of
Trial Attorneys. In 2015, she received the Beacon of Justice Award
from the Equal Justice Coalition for her support of legal aid.
"Her work on behalf of those most in need of legal services was,
and is, exemplary," said John Carroll, who was chair of the EJC in
2015 and presented Cronin with her award. "Now she is about to
assume the weighty responsibilities of House Chairperson of the
Joint Committee on the Judiciary. She has the two most important
virtues we, as citizens, could hope for in that position: fairness
and compassion. Representative Cronin is the embodiment of those
two virtues. Combined with her capacity for hard work, the House
would be hard pressed to find a better choice."
A graduate of Stonehill College and Suffolk University Law
School, Cronin recently spoke with the Massachusetts Bar
Association's Jason Scally about her new role, the issues her
committee may face this term and how her background as a
lawyer-mediator will help.
Q. What are the most important issues facing the
Judiciary Committee this session?
We receive close to 1,000 bills on a wide range of complex
issues, so we are dealing with issues from criminal justice to
constitutional issues, privacy issues, real estate issues, criminal
procedure, civil procedure - the list goes on and on. Once we get
all of the bills from the Clerk's office we'll be able to get a
better sense of what appears to be some of the most pressing
issues. I anticipate that criminal justice reform will be a hot
topic this session. There's been a lot of discussion in that
Q. A proposal related to shared custody that was
followed closely by the family law bar stalled last year. What is
the future of the shared-custody proposal?
We were able to pass the bill in the House last year but it
didn't go through in the Senate. This session bills have been filed
that directly relate to custody issues and shared parenting. We
will continue to vet and review them. The issue is coming back,
that's for sure.
Q. Where would you like to see it end up?
As with any piece of legislation, we are always seeking to build
consensus around the issues. Last session we made significant
progress, but the ball wasn't pushed over the finish line. This
year I'd look to build on the progress we made last year and
continue the conversation.
Q. Gov. Baker has filed a criminal justice reform bill
following the report from the Council of State Governments. What's
the next step?
There was a working group that worked with the Council on State
Government, and I appreciate the really hard work they did, along
with CSG and the co-chars. The previous Judiciary Chair, John
Fernandes, did a fantastic job on that working group. The working
group released a report based on the findings of the working group,
and Governor Baker filed the bill. It will basically go through the
legislative process the same as any of the other bills. I expect
that we'll be having a public hearing on it in the not too far
Q. What is your position on mandatory minimum
That's broad, but I try to approach every issue with an open
mind; that's the mediator in me. We're likely to have numerous
bills on the issue around mandatory minimums, and the CSG
legislation touches on that, as well. All of these bills will have
public hearings, and I'm looking forward to hearing from all sides,
and examining the issue in depth. It's a little more complex than
most people think. When we talk about mandatory minimums we're
talking about mandatory minimums with regard to a range of
offenses, from murder to guns to drug trafficking, so it's not one
size fits all. It's very complex, and it will require significant,
Q. What role do you see the Judiciary Committee having
with regard to the rollout of the new marijuana laws in
That will be interesting. This year a new Committee on Marijuana
Policy was created. It is being chaired by Rep. Mark Cusack in the
House. The committee will probably be addressing concerns of public
safety, consumer protection and taxation among other things. Rep.
Cusack will do a great job on that. Along with that, I believe our
committees will probably intersect around issues such as operating
under the influence of marijuana. We really don't have standards in
place for that, so I imagine we will be working together on some of
these issues after the Policy Committee completes their work.
Q. How did you get into arbitration and
It started out with my background as a litigator. I had
experience on both sides of the bar - both plaintiffs' and defense
bar. Originally I had taken a little time off to stay at home
raising my children, and it was a wonderful way to get back into
the workforce with family friendly hours, and my experience
provided me pretty good training. I work with Commonwealth
Mediation, one of the leaders in the mediation-arbitration
Q. Do you still maintain an active arbitration/mediation
I handle a few cases a month, but it's very limited at this
point because I'm devoting myself fully to being a state
representative. I will probably do fewer now as chair of the
Judiciary. I think my time constraints will be many right now, so I
imagine my mediation-arbitration practice will take a back
Q. Does your background as a neutral help you in your
role as a legislator?
Absolutely. As a matter of fact, when I ran for office that was
more or less one of the issues I ran on. As a mediator, you must be
able to look at all sides of an issue. You can't go in with a
set-in-stone opinion that doesn't waiver. One learns how to bring
people of various opinions and biases together, and you really
learn the art of compromise. Those same skills have prepared me
well to serve in the Legislature.
Q. Why did you decide to run for public
I grew up in a family that valued public service. A strange
tidbit that most people would be surprised to hear is I'm the third
generation in my family to serve in the Massachusetts House of
Representatives. My mother's uncle served in the 1920s. My mother's
brother served in the 1940s, and went on to become the mayor of
Brockton. I was elected in 2012, as the third generation. I grew up
recognizing that there was strong duty to give back to your
community. Before I ran for office, my volunteer work in the
community was rooted in public service. I served on the Old Colony
YMCA board for 12 years. I served on the Foundation for Excellence
in Education in Easton. I just grew up with public service always
in the back of my mind. As my children got older, the seat that I
ran for, the 11th Plymouth District, was vacated by a longtime
state rep, Geri Creedon, so it was an open seat. I've always had a
strong interest in politics. I was a political science major in
college, and there's always an intersection with law and politics,
as well. Many years ago I worked in the State House as an intern in
the House of Representatives, and I went on to become a staff
member of Governor King in 1982, so the interest was always there
and the timing was right.
Q. What do you find most challenging about being a state
The most challenging part is something that many people deal
with: time management. I think that there just isn't enough time in
the day to do all that you want to do.
Q. What do you find most rewarding?
The first thing - and I could never properly articulate this
when I was running for office - but deep down I like to help
people. And every day I have an opportunity to do that. I love that
about the job.