A Moratorium on Suspicious Appointments, Please
Whether or not one considers a legislative log-jamb at the State House to be a positive or negative development, a lowly taxpayer can’t help but feel that the appointment of family and friends to positions of influence is on a different track for approval:
Superior Court Presiding Justice Joseph F. Rodgers Jr. on Wednesday announced that he was retiring from the bench at the same time that Governor Carcieri selected Rodgers’ daughter, Kristen E. Rodgers, for a seat on the same court.
Rodgers, 67, said that his retirement will be effective Aug. 28. The justice said he expected the Senate Judiciary Committee to take up his daughter’s nomination late next week, with a vote by the full Senate on her confirmation before the legislature adjourns for the session.
Rodgers has been a judge for 35 years. His pension will be equal to his full salary, which as of July 1 will be $185,649, he said.
He said he was announcing his retirement now “to accelerate the process” so the General Assembly can name someone to fill his vacancy on the Superior Court sooner rather than later. He said it was his understanding that the legislature was planning to return for a special session in August or September to take up additional judicial nominations.
And of course, there’s this convenient factor:
[Kristin] Rodgers was selected from an older list of finalists recommended by the Judicial Nominating Commission. He passed over five people the JNC nominated for the Ragosta seat a year ago.
The law that allows Carcieri to pick from lists submitted by the commission over the past five years is due to expire June 30. Legislation to extend that law by one year passed the Senate last week and has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee for action.
Be impressions what they may, it’s possible that this curious timing is not the result of backroom murmurs. Still, I propose that state officials impose upon themselves a moratorium against nepotism. Frankly, the overlapping webs of familiar last names within our various layers of government is becoming a bit too suffocating to take, to the point that I’d almost rather have positions filled by a random finger-poke in the phone book than by the current process.
A passable test for whether a particular appointment would violate the moratorium would be a formulation applied by one of our commenters to a similar story not long ago: After an exhaustive nationwide search, the governor has nominated… the daughter of retiring Justice Joseph Rodgers. If the ellipsis seems justified, the nomination is not.