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Chief Justice Calls For Probation Commissioner Term Limit05:07

This article is more than 10 years old.

The Massachusetts Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved an amendment to grant the state's top administrative judge more power over the under-fire Probation Department.

In response to charges of nepotism and mismanagement, suspended Probation Commissioner John O'Brien said this week that he answers to Judge Robert Mulligan, who is chief justice for Administration and Management in the Massachusetts Trial Court. But Mulligan countered O'Brien's claim on Wednesday, saying that he currently has limited oversight of the probation agency.

"(The commissioner's) exclusivity was reinforced each year in the probation line item in the budget, where that language was made very clear each year that the commissioner had exclusive power to hire and promote," Mulligan said. "The power I had over those appointments, those hirings, those promotions, was quite limited."

Mulligan criticized the Probation Department for what he characterized as the "unwillingness" to provide basic information on hiring practices and operations. He also stated his firm belief that the probation commissioner should have a five-year term limit.

"I think the commissioner's term should be consistent with the seven chief justices of the Trial Court and consistent with the term of the chief justice for Administration and Management, my term," Mulligan said. "That seems almost a given in my mind that a person should not be appointed for life."

Mulligan says he thinks the agency should remain within the judicial branch, rather than the executive branch, as some have proposed.

This program aired on May 27, 2010.

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Bob Oakes has been WBUR's Morning Edition anchor since 1992.


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