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BOSTON �— In the wake of national criticism of a Massachusetts state court judge’s release of a convicted murderer on personal recognizance, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court tapped an ad hoc advisory committee to study rules about public comment by judges in the state’s Code of Judicial Conduct. Massachusetts Superior Court Judge Kathe Tuttman released Daniel Tavares Jr. last July after he served 16 years for killing his mother and while he was awaiting trial on charges of assaulting prison guards. When Tavares was charged with shooting a newlywed couple in Graham, Wash., last November, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney was criticized on the presidential campaign trail for appointing Tuttman. The public debate about the Tuttman ruling sparked discussion about whether the state’s rules on judicial comments are clear enough or should be changed, said Massachusetts Superior Court Judge E. Susan Garsh, who chairs the committee. The state’s code was last revised in 2003, and American Bar Association has since issued a model canon about public comments by judges, Garsh said. “People have expressed different views about what a judge is or isn’t permitted to do, Garsh said. The Massachusetts code says a judge “shall abstain from public comment about a pending or impending Massachusetts proceeding in any court,” but is allowed to explain the court’s procedures, general legal principals “or what may be learned from the public record in a case.” The 11-member committee, which includes eight judges, two lawyers in private practice and a Harvard Law School professor, will recommend that the Supreme Judicial Court clarify or change the rule. The court has asked for a committee recommendation in three months.

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