A top prosecutor in western Massachusetts may soon become a federal judge. It would fill a vacancy in the federal court in Springfield that local attorneys say is causing cases to be moved to Boston.
President Obama has nominated Hampden County District Attorney Mark Mastroianni to fill a vacancy on the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts. Mastroianni, speaking with reporters, said he received a phone call from the White House Tuesday morning informing him of the nomination.
Mastroianni, who is in the middle of his first four-year term as district attorney, would replace U.S. District Court Judge Michael Ponsor in Springfield. Ponsor, who was appointed to the federal bench in 1994 by President Clinton, took senior-status, or semi-retirement, in 2011.
Mastroianni was recommended to President Obama by Massachusetts U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren. He was reportedly the top choice of the Advisory Committee on Massachusetts Judicial Nominations. His nomination must have a hearing by the Senate Judiciary Committee and be confirmed by the full U.S. Senate. It is unknown how long the process might take.
President Obama has struggled to fill dozens of vacancies in the federal court system, as Republicans have withheld support for his nominees. A senator from the home state of a nominee can singlehandedly block confirmation. That is unlikely to occur in Mastroianni’s case since both of the Senators from Massachusetts are Democrats.
Mastroianni’s nomination received bipartisan praise locally from both Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, a Democrat, and West Springfield Mayor Gregory Neffinger, a Republican.
If Mastroianni’s judicial nomination is confirmed, Governor Deval Patrick would appoint an interim district attorney to fill Mastroianni’s term ,which runs through 2014.
The western Massachusetts legal community has been anxious to have a new judge appointed to the U.S. District Court in Springfield to avoid having cases backlogged or moved to Boston. A nominee to the court had been recommended to President Obama last year by former Democratic Senator John Kerry and former Republican Senator Scott Brown, but for unknown reasons, the President never made the nomination.