ADL ties proving a problem for Mass. high court nominee

BOSTON (JTA) — A nominee for the top court in Massachusetts is facing opposition in part because of his affiliation with the Anti-Defamation League.

Joseph S. Berman, 49, a regional leader of the New England ADL and a commissioner for the national ADL since 2006, was nominated as a judge for the state Superior Court in October by Gov. Deval Patrick.

At an emotionally charged hearing last week, Marilyn Pettito Devaney of the Governor’s Council — the elected eight-member panel that is voting on the nomination — said she had the votes to deny Berman the appointment.

Devaney, who lives in Watertown, a Boston suburb with a large Armenian population, added that if she belonged to a group that denied the Holocaust, she would resign.

Her comments relate to a controversy from the mid-2000s, when the national ADL did not recognize the massacre of millions of Armenians on the eve of World War I as genocide. The ADL changed its position in 2007.

Several other councilors cited additional reasons for their unwillingness to support Berman while also agreeing that his ADL ties are a concern, the Boston Globe reported.

Admitting he was not prepared for the council’s reaction, Patrick delayed the vote until Dec. 4.

“I’m going to work hard to get the votes,” he said, although the Globe indicated the extra time would not save the nomination.

Robert Trestan, director of the New England ADL, said “the attack” on Berman and the ADL was a surprise.

“It’s not warranted based on the facts,” Trestan told JTA. “We changed our policy and we have moved on.”

He added, “Membership in an organization such as the ADL should not be a litmus test to qualify for being a judge.”

Berman was among the most persuasive leaders urging the group to acknowledge the massacre as a genocide, according to Jeffrey Robbins, chair of the New England ADL, who testified at the hearing.

Berman, a partner at the Boston firm Looney & Grossman, is a commercial litigation lawyer with a long track record in civil rights advocacy.

NEXT STORY