Supporting Davis for clerk

5

To the Editor:

On Nov. 6, voters will decide who will succeed Joe Sollitto’s 42-year tenure as clerk of courts. T. George Davis, the Democratic nominee, faces unenrolled candidate Anthony Piland. George is a graduate of Georgetown Law School, and has been a lawyer for 31 years, practicing full-time on Martha’s Vineyard since 2000. Anthony Piland is a physician’s assistant at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, and has no legal training or experience whatsoever. Only one candidate has the right skills and qualifications for this position.

When defending his seat against challenger attorney Daniel Larkosh in October 2006, Joe Sollitto (who is also an attorney) told the M.V. Gazette, “This is not a job that somebody can just jump in and do” … pointing to his own introduction as an assistant clerk in the early 1970s under the late Sophia Campos, who held the job for 57 years.

George Davis is a trial attorney, and as such he has spent countless hours in our courthouse. He has extensive firsthand knowledge of the court’s workings, and the foundation needed to ensure smooth operation of our county court system. George is also keenly aware of the impact of budgetary constraints, and has the insight needed to facilitate change.

The clerk of courts manages the Superior Court docket, assists the Superior Court judges in all aspects of court proceedings, adjudicates small claims cases, issues search warrants, and oversees and educates the jury pool, in addition to many administrative and ancillary functions. The bulk of the clerk’s day-to-day work, however, involves regular interaction with lawyers and judges about active cases, and smooth and effective communication with those professionals requires legal training and experience. In addition, many tasks require the ability to conduct prompt, accurate, and informed legal research, and to communicate back and forth with legal professionals on complicated issues. This is George’s wheelhouse, borne of his extensive training and experience.

A vote for T. George Davis is a vote for the experienced and most qualified candidate.

 

Jennifer W. Marcus
West Tisbury

 

5 COMMENTS

  1. Being a lawyer does not in and of itself qualify anyone to become a Clerk of Courts or to serve in any other public office. Many citizens have the skills to be a Clerk of Courts, selectman, county commissioner, senator, congressman, or any other publicly elected office. Do not be fooled by lawyers, professional politicians, or anyone else that says you are not qualified for public service. Challenge the status quo.

    A fundamental fact to know is that anyone newly elected to the position of Clerk of Courts is required to undergo mandatory training by the Massachusetts Trial Court Judicial Institute in Boston (even if they are already a lawyer). In addition to this training, the current outgoing Clerk of Courts is available to mentor the new Clerk. The system is designed so that the new Clerk will be successful and there will be a smooth transition.

    Anthony D. Piland, Sr.
    Candidate for Clerk of Courts

  2. Learning on the job when people’s lives or certainly futures are on the line based on the decisions the Clerk of Courts might have to make just does not pass even a low bar.

  3. I have known George as long as he has been on Martha’s Vineyard and I encourage all to vote for George. He is truly a very qualified candidate.

  4. Jennifer when Mr. Sollitto made that remark about me in 2006, I had over 15 years of experience at a litigator in the court system. And let’s not forget that Mr. Sollitto himself, for all his qualities and success, has never appeared as a litigator in any court either before he became clerk or in the 42 years he has served. So what Mr. Sollitto was saying in 2006 was that you needed hands-on experience working in the clerk’s office in order to be qualified to assume the position. Neither of these two candidates has that prior hands-on experience working in the clerk’s office. And also Mr. Sollitto was not a licensed attorney when he began working in the office, but he had been employed as an Oak Bluffs police officer. He also served in the Marine Corps. So it would seem that the quote you selected would hardly speak as an endorsement of Mr. Davis’s background or against Mr. Piland’s qualifications for the post. When I ran against Mr. Sollitto in 2006, a key part of my platform was to integrate early intervention and mediation services to the Superior Court as it had been done elsewhere. Twelve years later this is also a key part of Attorney Davis’s platform. I have not endorsed a candidate in this race, but this remains a reform that is both needed and desirable. I hope everyone will listen carefully to what each of these candidates has to say and will not dismiss either because both appear to be qualified for the job. It is an important post and, as Mr. Sollitto has demonstrated, one can serve with distinction in the job without being an attorney with any courtroom experience beforehand. Although there is no doubt that Mr. Davis’s relevant education and legal experience matters for something in this type of position, let’s not dismiss Mr. Piland for lack of qualifications just because he is not a licensed attorney with courtroom experience.

  5. In response to the comment made by Attorney Dan Larkosh . . while it is true that you do not need to be an attorney to run for this position, this is a job typically held by attorneys or at the very least those with substantial legal or courthouse experience. When Joe Sollitto took office he had already graduated from law school and had legal work experience. In fact, he was hired for these reasons. To suggest that, “Mr. Sollitto has demonstrated, one can serve with distinction in the job without being an attorney with any courtroom experience beforehand” is simply untrue.

    You may not be aware but the training for this position only involves basic information about how to run an office and courtroom policy because it is expected that those seeking the office have some legal or courtroom experience. There are no courses, legal training or training manuals to learn how to do this job. The incoming Clerk will be expected to walk into this job with competent legal skills to handle things such as issuing search warrants that can have a profound impact on people’s rights. It is naïve to think the training would be remotely adequate.

    Additionally, Mr. Piland’s comparison to positions such as Selectman is flawed because selectmen make political, not legal, decisions. The Clerk of Courts must know how to interpret and apply the law and the Massachusetts Rules of Civil and Criminal procedure on a daily basis. Selectmen have town counsel available to advise them as legal issues arise. Mr. Piland will not have this luxury.

    Jennifer Marcus, Esq.

    West Tisbury

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