Being a municipal judge is a part-time job. As a result, municipal judges tend to have law practices outside of the courtroom. They also engage in activities that most judges wouldn’t do.
Now, one municipal judge is under fire in part for his lobbying efforts in defending gun rights.
Gun-rights lobbyist Frank Saccoccio has worn many hats in the last two years.
He has been a municipal court judge in Cranston, an assistant town solicitor in Johnston, and a top lobbyist at the Rhode Island State House for the group known as the RI 2nd Amendment Coalition, which has aggressively — and for the most part, successfully — opposed new gun-control laws, including a proposed ban on guns on school grounds.
But his worlds collided last fall in a series of events that may now threaten his reappointment as a part-time, $3,750-a-year municipal court judge in Rhode Island’s second-largest city.
The short version:
Saccoccio was fired from his Johnston perch last October after he dismissed two misdemeanor charges against a state senator’s daughter. Saccoccio is up for reappointment as a municipal court judge in early January by the Cranston City Council.
His reappointment may not go as smoothly as his unanimous appointment two years ago, before the Parkland, Florida, high school shootings led the Cranston City Council to pass a resolution urging state lawmakers to pass a bill banning “people, except police officers, from carrying concealed weapons in schools.”
In January 2017, Cranston City Councilman Steven Stycos was among the yea votes for Saccoccio’s appointment to one of two newly created municipal court judgeships.
The problem, at least for Stycos isn’t that he dropped charges against a politically-connected defendant. That, I could accept. No, it’s that now he knows that Saccoccio is an avid supporter of the Second Amendment.
Stycos told Political Scene last week that he will not vote yes again now that he is aware of Saccoccio’s dual roles as judge and lobbyist, and amid lingering questions about the dismissed Johnston court case which, in his mind, “put a cloud over him.”
“I can’t vote for him,” said Stycos. “Just because he is an advocate for the Second Amendment does not, in my mind, disqualify him from being a municipal court judge. It’s the fact that he is lobbying … taking a prominent political position, then sitting as a judge.”
However, I’d have to ask Stycos if he would feel differently if Soccoccio was lobbying for, say, Planned Parenthood or in favor of illegal immigrants?
I think we all know the answer to that one. After all, anyone who advocates for liberal positions is heralded as a hero while anyone who does the opposite is deemed inappropriate.
Look, if there are no rules in place barring municipal judges from lobbying efforts, then this is total male bovine excrement, and anyone with half a brain should be able to tell, especially since such a rule would be cited explicitly.
In other words, it’s not about him having shown some alleged political favoritism. It’s not even about lobbying efforts.
No, it’s about advocating for gun rights.
Soccoccio had the temerity to support something politically unpopular with Democrats, and that means they can’t possibly allow him to continue as a municipal court judge. I don’t care what Stycos said on the matter.
If you want municipal court judges to refrain from any kind of open advocacy on political issues, then make a rule. If not, then don’t try to fire him because he didn’t agree with your politics.