Former Patrick Aide, Restaurant Server Screened For Judgeships

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BOSTON (State House News Service) — Governor's Council members continued to express delight with Gov. Maura Healey's nominees Wednesday as the elected panel interviewed the third and fourth judicial candidates of the term, including a former federal prosecutor and a Harvard law instructor who drew praise from the owner of Davio's restaurant.

Superior Court nominee Michael Pineault, former deputy chief legal counsel to Gov. Deval Patrick, recalled his work on a major federal case against National Amusements and Hoyts Cinemas, and how something like sitting in a "decent seat" with a friend "really matters."

"It's hard to convey the importance of accessibility issues unless you have spent a lot of time with people who grapple with those issues every day," Pineault told the council.

As theaters popularized stadium-style seating in the 1990s, as opposed to a traditional sloped floor, they placed wheelchair-accessible seating areas in the front row, he said.

Pineault recounted a conversation with a young woman who was paralyzed from the waist down. As a high schooler, she was asked out on a date to a newly-opened theater where everyone was excited to sit in the new stadium seats. But when they arrived there, "she felt horrible" because her wheelchair could only be accommodated in a flat area at the very front.

That woman wound up choosing to sit by herself at the front of the cinema, he said, and cried as she later told him the story. He worked on persuading the chains to revise designs, and a federal judge in 2003 ordered them to open the stadium option to people with wheelchairs.

Following his seven years at Hill & Barlow, decade as an assistant U.S. attorney, and two years in Patrick's office, Pineault opened a small firm with fellow Patrick administration alumnus Ben Clements. He has worked as counsel at Anderson Kreiger since 2020.

The 59-year-old Wayland resident was valedictorian of his Foxborough High School class, earned a bachelor's from Dartmouth, and graduated Harvard Law School in 1989.

For all his legal experience, Pineault has only seen four trials to conclusion in the state Superior Court, and tried around a dozen bench trials in state District Court, he told the council.

"You've got a great resume, and you're clearly bright," Councilor Eileen Duff said after quizzing Pineault on his level of Superior Court experience. Why not seek a spot on the federal bench, she asked?

The nominee said he wanted to serve in a "court of true general jurisdiction" that sees a broader range of cases, and with "apologies to all the federal judges that might hear about this," he added that the Superior Court felt "a little bit closer to people in the community, the real world."

Councilor Terrence Kennedy said while Pineault's experience with the Superior Court is "limited," his work experience is "broad overall." And like several other councilors, he said he looked forward to supporting the nomination on Nov. 8.

When Laura Martin went to work for Clements & Pineault in 2012, it was her first full-time job. She didn't have any lawyers in her family and didn't know what to expect, she told the council.

Pineault provided additional opportunities that made her want to pursue a law degree, and she recalled making it through law school -- a "difficult time" for her -- thanks to "significant support and encouragement" he gave her to continue on.

Pineault has been a "guiding light for me for my entire professional career," Martin said.

Former colleagues from the U.S. Attorney's Office, Nutter attorney Jonathan Kotlier and David Mackey of Anderson Kreiger, also spoke in support.

Audrey Carr Murillo, a clinical instructor at Harvard Law School's Criminal Justice Institute, is pending for a Juvenile Court seat and told councilors of the tough times she experienced in her own juvenile years.

After her parents' divorce, she lived with her mother during the week, "paycheck to paycheck" initially in a rent-controlled apartment in Cambridge. They felt "financial strain" and were "frequently deprived of basic necessities," she said.

"We are those parents who remind our kids daily, sometimes ad nauseam, about how lucky they are and how tough we had it," said Murillo, joined in the chamber by her husband and two children.

"I think, for your age, I look at your life experience," Councilor Marilyn Petitto Devaney told her. She added, "I really admire you."

The 49-year-old Milton resident got her start at the Davio's restaurant chain as a server, and owner Steve DiFillippo was one of her supporting witnesses on Wednesday.

DiFillippo said Murillo rose to the managerial level at Davio's, then became one of his point people in the office. Murillo's husband, Rodney, started as a dishwasher at Davio's before ascending to his current role as culinary director and vice president.

The family represents the American dream, DiFillippo said: "The American dream is still available in our country."

Most of the nominee's career has been spent in the Juvenile Court, she said. As supervising attorney at Suffolk County's private juvenile bar, she mentored and evaluated lawyers practicing in that court.

She is a UMass Amherst and New England School of Law graduate, and spent two years at the Law Office of Jeffrey Rubin before opening a solo practice in 2008, according to her nomination questionnaire. She started at the Criminal Justice Institute in 2019.

Harvard Law professor Dehlia Umunna and retired Judge Terry Craven, former first justice of Suffolk Superior Court, spoke in support of the nomination.

"If confirmed as a Juvenile Court associate justice, I will continue to strive to make an impact on children's lives," said Murillo.

Written by Sam Doran/SHNS

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