A Rhode Island Tale: On the Patronage Train
There’s not much to say about this, but it’s so nearly a cliché unto itself that it begs mention:
Without any official notice, the Senate yesterday voted unanimously to confirm House Speaker William J. Murphy’s deputy assistant, Patrick T. Burke, as a special magistrate in the Superior Court. …
Unlike judges, magistrates are not vetted by the state’s Judicial Nominating Commission in an open and competitive arena. They are recommended by the top judges of each court, in this case Superior Court Presiding Justice Joseph F. Rodgers Jr., who urged speedy action on the Feb. 26 nomination. …
[Burke] was at the center of a controversial court case that worked its way to the state Supreme Court in the 1990s that evolved from his arrest by the Warwick police in 1993 after they observed his car weaving on Route 2 around 2:30 a.m. The police charged him with refusing to submit to a portion of the breath test, and the traffic court suspended his license and scheduled a hearing that never took place after being continued seven times, the last time at the prosecutor’s request because she knew Burke through the courts and questioned whether she could be impartial.
Burke’s lawyer, then House Speaker John B. Harwood, in 1996 filed for dismissal, saying the state’s action deprived Burke of his right to a speedy trial. Judge John F. Lallo dismissed the charge, but fined Burke for a roadway violation. The attorney general’s office appealed to a three-judge traffic appeals court panel, which upheld the dismissal. The attorney general appealed to the state Supreme Court, which refused to hear the case.
And now he starts tomorrow at his new $150K position. Eased into the soft cushion of Rhode Island putrefaction.