On Thursday, May 9, 2024, the MV Times reported that First Justice Patricia A. Gorman, a probate and family court judge who presides over cases in Dukes County, Massachusetts, is facing calls for her removal from the bench. According to the article, 34 individuals had submitted petitions to state lawmakers seeking Judge Gorman’s removal, claiming that she had put children at risk in several custody disputes.

The petitions and an online petition that garnered over 320 signatures alleged that Judge Gorman had placed children and vulnerable adults back into harmful situations with their abusers. A Boston attorney who signed one of the petitions testified before a legislative committee that Judge Gorman “knowingly issues rulings that enable the physical and sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults.”

Two state representatives, Dylan Fernandes and Jay Livingstone, filed bills in January 2023 to remove Judge Gorman from both the Dukes County and Norfolk County probate and family courts. However, the bills did not receive a vote in the current legislative session and would need to be refiled next year. Representative Fernandes noted that it was unusual for him to file a “by-request” bill seeking a judge’s removal.

There are three avenues for removing a judge in Massachusetts – action by the Commission on Judicial Conduct, removal by the governor with approval from the Governor’s Council, or impeachment and conviction by the legislature. While the Commission does investigate misconduct complaints, it cannot remove a judge unilaterally.

The article profiled the cases of two women, Debra Metell and Shannon Barnes, who supported Judge Gorman’s removal. Both had undergone bitter custody battles where Judge Gorman’s rulings allegedly put children in unsafe situations. In Metell’s case, her children suffered abuse after a supervised visit approved by Judge Gorman. And in Barnes’ case, her daughter reported abuse after Judge Gorman granted unsupervised visits to her ex-husband, who was later criminally charged.

While Judge Gorman did not comment on the removal efforts, the MV Times article provided background on her legal career and current judicial roles. It noted that removing judges is an extremely rare process in Massachusetts. The bills seeking Judge Gorman’s removal were referred to a legislative committee for study, meaning they would not receive votes in the current session.



Source: MV Times