Jubinville shows independent streak as new governor’s councilor

“It is a very important position to protect the citizens,’’ said Robert Jubinville about his seat on the Governor’s Council.
“It is a very important position to protect the citizens,’’ said Robert Jubinville about his seat on the Governor’s Council. –Barry Chin/Globe Staff

MILTON — When he ran for Governor’s Council last year, Milton attorney Robert L. Jubinville promised to be an independent voice on the state panel that considers judicial nominees. In his first month on the job, he appears to be making good on that pledge.

On Jan. 23, he was one of two members of the eight-person panel to vote against Governor Deval Patrick’s Superior Court nominee, Brockton District Court Judge Angel Kelley Brown. Jubinville said he did not think she had sufficient legal experience.

“You don’t do any favors to somebody by putting them there when they are not ready,’’ he said. Kelley Brown’s nomination carried the day, however.


A few days later, Jubinville came to the governor’s defense, calling for Patrick to re-nominate Shannon Frison, whom the Governor’s Council had failed to confirm for a judgeship in December. Jubinville said Frison’s initial nomination had been sabotaged by false reports that she had performed poorly as a judge in the military. “The council had received misinformation,’’ Jubinville said. “She is eminently qualified.’’

A prominent criminal defense attorney in Massachusetts, Jubinville, 66, had never run for public office before his 2008 run for Governor’s Council, also known as the Executive Council. He lost that year and again in 2010, but last year, following the death of incumbent Kelly Timilty, Jubinville, a Democrat, won the vacant seat.

Although he put together campaign teams and did some fund-raising during each of his bids, Jubinville used much of his own money to run for the part-time job that pays $26,000 a year. His state campaign finance reports indicate he personally loaned his three campaigns more than $400,000 over five years.

In his campaigns, he did not have the backing of powerful established political machines in the sprawling Second Governor’s Council District, which spans five counties and includes part of Boston, as well as all or part of 38 south and west suburbs.


“I vote the way I want to. I don’t owe anybody anything,’’ Jubinville said. “The voters of District 2 put me here, and my job is to protect all citizens.’’

The divorced father of two adult daughters — one is a lawyer, the other a probation officer — lives and works in his home office in East Milton Square on Adams Street next to the post office. He also has small satellite offices in Falmouth and Holyoke.

A former State Police trooper who has practiced law for the past 33 years, Jubinville is much in demand as a defense lawyer. His work takes him to courthouses across the Commonwealth, and he has represented defendants in high-profile cases, including the murder of 10-year-old Jeffrey Curley of Somerville in 1997 and the 1999 rape and murder of teacher Melissa Gosule.  

Jubinville said he has no aspirations for higher office and hopes to continue to practice law for another 20 years.

He said that in reviewing judicial candidates he will study nominees carefully and look for experience and balance. He said that on the tough-on-crime vs. soft-on-crime spectrum, he falls somewhere in the middle.

“You get judges at each end — too lenient, too hard — they usually don’t make the best judges. The ones in the middle, who call it fairly one way or the other, they really do tend to make better judges,’’ Jubinville said.

State Senator Brian A. Joyce, a Milton Democrat and a longtime critic of the Governor’s Council, said he believes Jubinville will be an independent voice on the panel.


“I would not expect him to have any ideological litmus tests,’’ Joyce said. “He is an extraordinary practitioner of his craft.’’

Joseph P. McEttrick of Milton, a retired Suffolk University Law School professor and an unsuccessful candidate for Governor’s Council in 1996, said of Jubinville, “His interest in the Governor’s Council is based on his profession. He has a substantial practice and has been in the courts a lot. A lot of people on the council don’t have that profile.’’

The Massachusetts Governor’s Council is one of only two such councils in the United States. A carryover from Colonial days as a check on the power of the governor, the panel has seen its duties trimmed over the years, and there have been calls for its abolition. Its primary role today is to vote on all judicial nominations of the governor.

Governor’s councilors are elected by district, each of which is made up of five state senatorial districts. Governor’s Council districts are each one-eighth of the state and are slightly more populous than a congressional district.

Because the districts are so large, campaigning door-to-door is impossible, and because the office is obscure, a big media campaign is too costly. Jubinville said that in each of his campaigns he relied heavily on direct mail.

“The only way to reach this type of a voting population is to put something in their hands,’’ he said.

Jubinville said that after his losses to incumbent Timilty in 2008 and 2010, he was prepared to abandon his quest for the office, but when the seat became vacant in 2012, he decided to try again.

“I knew that I had built up my name recognition already, so thought I would give it a shot,’’ he said.

Jubinville topped a four-person field in the September Democratic primary, and then in November captured 60 percent of the vote to defeat Republican Earl Sholley of Norfolk.

Jubinville said he believes the council remains an important check on the power of the governor.

“Of course, all governors want free reign to appoint whoever the hell they want. There have been governors along the way who wanted to try to get rid of the council. I believe it is a very important position to protect the citizens,’’ he said.

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