A committee of Massachusetts judges may clarify the rules on when judges may speak publicly about cases they have handled, reports the Associated Press. The panel was formed after publicity about the case of Daniel Tavares Jr. After he was arrested in the killings of a newlywed couple in Washington state, the Massachusetts judge who had freed the convicted killer on personal recognizance in two prison guard assaults became a hot topic in the presidential campaign.
Judge Kathe Tuttman issued no public comments after her decision to free Tavares, prompting two judges to issue an unusual public defense of her. The current rule prohibits judges from making public comments about pending or impending proceedings. It does not prohibit them from making public statements in the course of their official duties or from explaining procedures of the court “for public information.” In the Tavares case, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who appointed Tuttman to the bench, called for her resignation. Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani cited Tuttman’s appointment as an example of Romney’s poor record on crime. The state’s two top judges defended Tuttman, saying her ruling was based on the state’s bail law, which requires judges to only consider whether a suspect is a flight risk.