Tabbing Goldberg Would Look Bad
Dan Yorke was all over the ProJo expose on potential RI Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen McKenna Goldberg and her husband, super-lobbyist Robert Goldberg. Mr. Goldberg has his hands in so many cookie jars that it would seem impossible for potential Chief Justice Goldberg to be able to rule on any number of potential cases without recusing herself. For instance, he has lobbied for interests in gambling (GTECH), alternative power (Deep Water Wind) and health care (CVS). How effective could she be when her spouse is involved–even if only peripherally–in any number of hot button issues? Plus, he’s a major political donor.
H. Philip West, former executive director of Rhode Island Common Cause and a longtime follower of the judicial selection process, wonders how much the Goldbergs share with each other about their work, and how that might affect their attitudes and actions.
“Bob has his hands in scores of policy and legal issues across state government,” says West. “I’m troubled that Maureen will have to recuse herself or by the anxiety that people might have if she doesn’t recuse herself.” Given her husband’s broad portfolio, from gambling to health care to energy to the environment, potential conflicts might not always be so obvious or apparent, he noted.
Echoes Arthur C. Barton, president of Operation Clean Government: “Legislation that her husband is paid to promote, she is paid to review. We don’t want a chief justice who is compromised, or has to recuse herself. It’s one of those things that taint government in Rhode Island, if the chief justice is married to the highest-paid lobbyist in the state.”
Barton says that Justice Goldberg’s presence on the bench could also be perceived as helping her husband’s law practice as well as his lobbying at the State House, where many legislative leaders are lawyers who earn their livelihood in court.
When both Common Cause and Operation Clean Government have raised alarms, I’d say that’s more than enough for me to have serious reservations. Whether Judge Goldberg recuses herself or not, the perceived, inferred and real influence of her own husband is enough to call her selection into question. Perhaps its unfair to well-connected individuals, but we’ll never change the negative perception of this state so long as we continue to go back to the same well of insiders time and again.