Another misguided, politically motivated judicial impeachment effort

After the shameful, politically motivated recall of California judge Aaron Persky this summer, I hoped that it would be a while before we saw another attack on a good judge who happened to give a single light sentence. Consider those hopes dashed.

Some members of the Massachusetts General Assembly are calling for the impeachment (technically the implementation of a “bill of address”) of state superior court judge Timothy Feeley, who gave probation to a convicted heroin dealer earlier this year.

The rancor over Feeley’s rulings have focused on the case of Manuel Soto-Vittini, 33, of Peabody, who in May pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute heroin and cocaine. He was caught with 15 grams of heroin — 3 grams below the threshold for a more serious trafficking charge.

Feeley gave him two years of probation, instead of the one to three years in prison that prosecutors sought, calling it “a money crime.”

Feeley also weighed Soto-Vittini’s immigration status, saying in court that if the Dominican national had been a U.S. citizen, he would likely have sent him to state prison.

Lawmakers have already called for an internal judicial investigation of the matter, which is ongoing. In that sense, the call for impeachment is likely just political posturing. But it is still corrosive and pointless. One can be dismayed by the light sentence and still conclude that removal from office is entirely inappropriate.

 

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