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Hampden District Attorney Mark G. Mastroianni is on the verge of becoming a district court judge in Massachusetts.
Last week, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee approved his nomination unanimously to serve as the presiding judge in the U.S. District Court in Springfield.
His next stop in the confirmation rigmarole? The full Senate.
A Westfield resident, Mastroianni is a former state prosecutor and defense lawyer. He was nominated by President Obama to fill the vacancy in the U.S. District Court in Springfield following Judge Michael A. Ponsor's decision to take semi-retired status in 2011, The Republican reports.
The Senate seems to have a much stronger affinity for Mastroianni than Obama's 2011 selection of Superior Court Judge C. Jeffrey Kinder, who was stuck in limbo without a hearing for 19 months due to partisan rancor over other nominations. He withdrew his name from consideration almost exactly one year ago, clearing the way for Mastroianni.
With a spate of early retirements, the federal judgeship in Massachusetts is in the midst of an extraordinary makeover and senators are seizing upon it as an opportunity to push for more diversity on the bench, The Boston Globe reports.
Mastroianni's nomination is buttressed by the seal of approval from more than two Massachusetts senators, Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey, as well as U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield.
Warren's approval of Mastroianni might be a bit tempered by his experience as a prosecutor, considering a speech she made before the American Constitution Society saying "the federal appellate bench is "dominated by judges whose previous professional experience is generally corporate or prosecutorial."
In the speech, she cited a 2013 American Constitution Society study that found that "85 percent of 162 federal judges had worked in private practice, and the majority of them had worked at large firms that represent corporations, while only five judges, or 3 percent, had any substantial work for nonprofit organizations. Only 3 percent had worked for organizations or government agencies that enforce civil rights," the Globe reports.
Despite Warren's call for more Mastroianni managed to field questions on gun, drug and victim-rights cases before the Senate panel and come away unscathed. So it's possible Warren's is pleased enough with Mastroianni. After all, he doesn't represent corporate clients, so maybe it's a step in the right direction.
"It's almost unheard of for a nomination to get an unanimous vote of approval from the judiciary committee and not get positive vote from the full Senate," Springfield political consultant Anthony L. Cignoli told The Republican.
Next, Mastroianni will need to make it through a floor debate and vote. Given how uncharacteristically non-dramatic the situation has been surrounding his selection, things should be pretty smooth sailing for him from here on out.
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