Plymouth District Court Clerk Magistrate Roger O'Neil has held the same plum job for more than 30 years, but he’s been banned from working at Plymouth District Court for two decades.
O’Neil was appointed in 1978 by Governor Dukakis and is paid $110,000 a year.
O’Neil is still considered the clerk magistrate at the Plymouth court who is in charge of managing the court's business and conducting criminal and civil hearings.
But since O’Neil was reassigned in the early 1990s, an acting clerk magistrate has been doing the job.
“As long as you have a pulse you will get a paycheck if you're a clerk magistrate,” said Mary-Ellen Manning, a Governor’s Councilor.
Clerk magistrates, like judges, are nominated by the governor and their appointments must be approved by the Governor's Council.
In the case of clerk magistrates like O'Neil it's a lifetime appointment.
“This is not the appropriate way to handle this. They're neither fish nor fowl. They got one foot here and one foot there,” said Manning.
O'Neil was convicted of assault and battery in 1992 stemming
from an incident with a court officer at Plymouth District Court a year earlier.
The assault happened after O'Neil refused to appear before a judge while at work, and the court officer was helping carry out the judge's order to bring O'Neil to his courtroom.
According to court records, O’Neil "... grabbed (the court officer), knocked him to the ground, climbed on top of him, pulled out some of his hair, and punched him in the face."
The Supreme Judicial Court "permanently reassigned" O'Neil to Boston Municipal Court, ordering that "...Mr. O'Neil shall not exercise any legal or administrative authority with respect to the duties and operation of the office of the clerk-magistrate..."
“The judiciary protects the judiciary. That's what they do. And the clerk magistrates are part of the judiciary,” said Manning. “If they thought it was so serious they wanted to strip him of his duties and it seems the Supreme Judicial Court did think that he should have been stripped of his duties, then he should have been let go under the statute that allows for clerk magistrates to be let go for cause.”
The Massachusetts Court System declined to comment on O’Neil’s case.
A spokesperson sent Fox Undercover the court order permanently reassigning O'Neil and an old press release issued in 1993, saying the documents speak for themselves.
According to those documents, "Mr. O'Neil has admitted that he engaged in undignified conduct..."
But the documents do not address why the court transferred him instead of firing him.
“This is an issue of management of taxpayer dollars. And it's wrong for the judiciary to not speak to the press about it,” said Manning. ”The public always deserves answers. Always. Every time.”
Fox Undercover tracked down the "real" clerk magistrate at Boston Municipal Court, Dan Hogan.
“Roger O’Neil is currently assigned here. He's here specifically designated by the Supreme Judicial Court. Anything further than that is a personnel matter between Mr. O'Neil and myself and I don't think it's appropriate for our conversation today,” said Hogan.
O’Neil did not respond to questions asked by Fox Undercover’s Mike Beaudet.
It's not clear exactly what O'Neil has been doing for the last 20 years in Boston.
A Fox Undercover photographer found him sitting motionless at a desk and said it looked like he was sleeping.
“It’s a complete failure of judicial management for the court system to say, well we're going to take that person. We're going to put them somewhere else where they may or may not be needed. And then leave open the real position and have it filled by someone who's making that salary,” said Councilor Manning.