Editorial: Politics taints the law of the land

Barnstable District Court Clerk Magistrate Chuck Ardito did the right thing by opening up a show-cause hearing to determine if State Police Col. Christopher Mason’s son improperly stored guns.

The police report — or reports, we don’t know — have not been made public. That, unfortunately, smacks of a lack of transparency.

But we’ll know more on May 24 at 11 a.m. That’s when Reid Mason, a firefighter in Truro, has his hearing. The clerk will dive into what exactly transpired when Mason reportedly ended up sleeping off a night out in his car in Hyannis with his guns stored inside the vehicle.

The Herald appealed to Clerk Ardito to open up this hearing and he agreed on the same day. He added other media outlets had done the same, proving that openness is paramount to anyone who works hard to cover the news.

Any lack of transparency forces everyone to fill in the blanks, but that’s where the trouble starts. Why has this case been kept so secret? We are going to find out.

As we’ve stated in this spot before, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland sent a memo on March 15 urging D.C. department heads to strive for openness and speed with Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

“Agencies should continue their efforts to remove barriers to requesting and accessing government records and to reduce FOIA processing backlogs,” Garland said in his memo, adding that “timely disclosure of records is also essential to the core purpose of FOIA.”

He is the nation’s top law enforcer and what he says should be taken as gospel.

Yet, it does not apply to climate czar John Kerry. As we’ve also reported, Kerry has told the Herald a FOIA seeking a list of who actually works at the climate office won’t be made available until October 2024.

This proves access to public records, court hearings and more is not so cut-and-dry. The ethics of those in charge often determines the outcome.

Clerk Ardito decided openness was warranted in the Mason case. Garland is not making the same difficult decision with the Kerry appeal. The Herald has objected and still the Biden administration ignores the matter.

Politics, sadly, taints the law of the land.

Some clerks and courts are willing to hear honest appeals. Others? Not so much.

We made a similar appeal to the Woburn District Court clerk magistrate over alleged threats made to MassGOP staffers. He granted our appeal and we have covered that case — including the disorderly conduct charge filed against the alleged intruder, who happens to be a lawyer.

We also appealed to the Dedham District Court clerk magistrate — and won again — to allow the public to hear details of parents accused of hosting a high school graduation party where booze was present and a teen died in the pool. That also had a State Police hook.

The judge in that tragic case has also been transparent every step of the way. That’s the way it should be. A teenager died.

Former State Police Capt. James Coughlin has been charged with furnishing alcohol to persons under 21 and reckless endangerment of a child. His wife, Leslie Coughlin, also faces the same charges.

The charges are tied to the drowning of 17-year-old Alonzo Polk of Dedham.

When it comes to public records and the courts, there is absolutely no substitute for transparency. AG Garland and John Kerry should take note. We’d add the state Legislature to that, too, but we’ll save that topic for another day.

 

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