As I’ve written on occasion in the past, the Rhode Island Democratic Party is a grotesque hive of scum and villainy. There are some good people in there, but the leadership in the state party are basically Republicans. But in Rhode Island, all it means to be a Democrat is “I want power.” The closest analogy I have for it is the PRI in Mexico, where any claims to original beliefs are lost and it’s all about protecting the elites. It’s really awful. Progressives have won some victories in the last couple of election cycle, but that has led to them being openly ostracized by the leadership in both houses. This all leads to such lovely ideas as this:
Rhode Island Senate Democrats are concerned about the public learning too much about candidates for lifetime judicial appointments.
Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey introduced legislation this week that would make “investigations of the personal background of each nominee as it relates to a determination of judicial fitness … confidential.”
For years, background information on candidates for the bench was not released publicly, but after 2012 changes in the state’s public records law, the State Police in 2016 made public details on five candidates being looked at for a District Court judgeship by the Judicial Nominating Commission. One of the 2016 candidates was former state representative Timothy Williamson and the background information included details of two arrests from the 1980s, plus other encounters with police.
McCaffrey on Thursday said his bill is intended to treat judges like every other prospective state worker, whose personnel records are kept confidential.
“I feel that records relative to a job application, and that is what this is, should be confidential,” McCaffrey said in a phone interview. “Obviously we have seen over the last few years that information has been released.”
McCaffrey’s bill also requires information on judges to be stored in a “secured state property” with dedicated staffing so that it doesn’t leak out. McCaffrey said now the records are kept in private law office of the Judicial Nominating Commission chair.
It is co-sponsored by Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Erin Lynch Prata and Sen. Frank Lombardi. Like McCaffrey, they are attorneys.
Asked whether the release of judicial background information in recent years has caused any problems the bill would remedy, McCaffrey said no specific cases come to mind.
He didn’t directly answer whether any judges have complained to him about information getting out or asked him to stop it.
“What this is doing is, for some reason the practice changed and the information got released,” McCaffrey said. “This is just clarifying what the practice was until recent years.”
The bill only applies to appointments through the Judicial Nominating Commission, so it does not cover magistrates like Michael DiChiro, who the Senate confirmed to the traffic court last month over some opposition to his appointment coming soon after he defended House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello in a campaign finance complaint.
With Democrats like these, who needs Republicans?