NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) — First Justice Douglas Darnbrough has resigned from the top job at New Bedford District Court after weeks of questions about his job status have gone unanswered.
Gov. Maura Healey’s press secretary Karissa Hand confirmed Tuesday the judge submitted his resignation.
“I can confirm that Judge Darnbrough has submitted his resignation effective Nov. 10, 2023,” Hand wrote in an email, adding that he’d provided notice about his leaving to the court.
The governor’s office received his official resignation letter on Wednesday and provided it with some redactions that Hand described as “personal information.”
“With regret … I am resigning from my position as an Associate Justice of the District Court,” Darnbrough wrote in the letter, which was also sent to Mass. Trial Court chief justice Jeffrey Locke and District Court chief justice Stacey Fortes.
Target 12 confirmed last Tuesday Darnbrough had been presiding over cases in Plymouth County since earlier last month after an anonymous letter containing accusations against him had surfaced.
The judge — who was appointed to the top job in 2019 by then-Gov. Charlie Baker — hadn’t been serving on the bench in New Bedford since at least September, and court spokespeople for more than a month obfuscated when asked questions about his absence, which was first reported by NBC 10.
On Sept. 26, a New Bedford District Court clerk confirmed Darnbrough wasn’t in court, but the office refused to provide any information about why, and wouldn’t disclose how long he’d been out. All questions were referred to Mass. Trial Court spokesperson Jennifer Donahue in Boston.
Donahue declined multiple requests to talk by phone. Asked through email if Darnbrough had been suspended, Donahue responded on Sept. 27, “It is not accurate that Judge Darnbrough has been suspended.” Asked if he’d been disciplined in any way, Donahue wrote, “I do not have additional information to share beyond what I have provided.”
Last week, Donahue confirmed Darnbrough was still assigned to Region 1 of the state’s district court system and was out using accrued time. It wasn’t clear what his job status was while sitting in Plymouth District Court. She would not confirm whether there has been an investigation into his behavior.
“The Trial Court does not comment on questions regarding personnel matters,” Donahue wrote.
Donahue declined to comment on Darnbrough’s resignation Tuesday, referring an inquiry to the governor’s office.
An employee in the judge’s lobby at New Bedford District Court declined to comment last week, referring all questions to Donahue. Darnbrough has not responded to requests for comment submitted through the judge’s lobby. Attempts to reach him by phone have not been successful.
Darnbrough’s mysterious absence comes at the same time an anonymous letter containing allegations against the judge has been widely circulating throughout the legal community.
Target 12 has reviewed the letter but has not independently verified the allegations.
News about the resignation has caught the attention of the Massachusetts Committee for Public Counsel Services, which represents defendants throughout the state.
“We have not received anything official about this judge’s resignation, but plan on seeking confirmation,” CPSP spokesperson Bob McGovern said in a statement on Wednesday. “We will make decisions about any appropriate and necessary subsequent action that would address our clients’ rights.”