SALEM — The state's top prosecutor said Salem Superior Court Judge Timothy Feeley or judges who are acting within the bounds of the law should not be impeached.
"I've had strong views about this," Attorney General Maura Healey said Friday at a North Shore Chamber of Commerce breakfast. "Judges in this state go through an extensive vetting process. They are not elected. I think that is a good tradition to maintain here. I think they are there to uphold the law in an apolitical, non-political way."
Feeley has faced public protests and calls for his removal since his decision last month to let a convicted heroin dealer off with probation. Led by Rep. Jim Lyons, R-Andover, 37 mostly Republican state lawmakers have signed onto a bill calling for Feeley's impeachment, citing his recent controversial ruling and other questionable decisions over the past few months.
Meanwhile, a group of House Democrats are trying to build support for a request to Superior Court Chief Justice Judith Fabricant to remove Feeley from the criminal bench.
"I understand that that stuff can happen, you know. People get out. People do bad things. You can't control that, ultimately," Healey said Friday. "But, a judge who's acting within the bounds of what sentencing guidelines allow, what the law allows, should not be the subject of impeachment."
Healey made the comments while taking questions from business, education and workforce leaders during the event, held at the Hawthorne Hotel in downtown Salem.
"If there are issues around what the law allows, and what sentencing guidelines allow, then address that there, but, you know, to me it's concerning," she added. "Look, I understand ... outrage over actions that are so harmful to public safety, and you know, if somebody does something so violent, it's such an affront to society, I understand that outrage, I really do."
She said part of the attorney general's job is to look at how things work institutionally, within the criminal justice system.
"I think we have to be very careful about rushing to put on trial those who are carrying out their duties and their obligations," Healey said.
Healey, a Democrat, is up for re-election this fall but faces no primary challengers.
This story will be updated.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at email@example.com or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.