BOSTON (AP) — A year after a wrenching loss to Scott Brown for the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by Edward Kennedy, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley said she’s busy gearing up for her second term as the state’s top law enforcement officer.
In just the past week, Coakley has filed a bill cracking down on human trafficking, pushed another bill to overhaul the state’s foreclosure laws, weighed in on Gov. Deval Patrick’s decision to shake-up the parole board and pledged to continue a probe into the state probation department.
“I’m really looking forward to the next few years. We’ve got a great crew. We’ve got a great record,” Coakley said Friday in an interview with The Associated Press.
The upbeat talk came one year after the lowest point in Coakley’s political career when she lost the special election to fill Kennedy’s senate seat to Republican Scott Brown, despite a last-minute visit by President Barack Obama.
Coakley quickly found herself in the national spotlight, even being mocked by an actor playing Obama during a Saturday Night Live skit.
That was then, said Coakley, who picked herself up and won a second term.
“I feel like last year is a long way away, and I’m clearly excited about what we can do in office,” she said. “It’s a place I love working. I’m really excited about the next couple of years.”
One of Coakley’s priorities is helping the state cope with the ongoing foreclosure crisis.
Coakley refiled a bill Friday that she said would toughen oversight of banks to make sure they’ve done their homework and are following the law before they take control of a property.
A Supreme Judicial Court ruling issued earlier this month showed the need for an overhaul of foreclosure laws, she said.
In the decision, the SJC backed a lower court ruling invalidating two mortgage foreclosure sales because the banks, in their capacity as trustees for mortgage securities, didn’t prove they actually owned the mortgages at the time of foreclosure.
Coakley said it’s not enough to require banks and others to prove they own properties facing foreclosure. She said the state should also require banks to show it’s more economically feasible to foreclose than not — a move that could encourage banks to seek solutions short of foreclosure.
“It’s a commonsense measure,” she said. “This will also give some standards to when foreclosures should happen and when they shouldn’t.”
Coakley said her office is going to continue its work on cybercrime by pushing for tougher sanctions against those who lure young people into prostitution and then use websites to connect them with “johns.”
She unveiled a bill this week that would create the state crime of trafficking of individuals for sexual servitude, with a maximum penalty of 20 years in state prison. The bill establishes a separate crime of trafficking persons for forced labor, to be punished by 15 years in prison.
The attorney general’s office is also in the midst of a series of high-profile investigations, including a probe of the state probation department for allegedly using its payroll to reward political patrons.
Coakley wouldn’t say when she expects to conclude the investigation, but said one goal is to help restore public confidence in public officials — a confidence that’s been shaken by a series of Beacon Hill scandals in recent years.
“You ought to have the public’s confidence that the system is going to work and is going to work fairly,” she said.
On Friday, Coakley weighed in on Gov. Deval Patrick’s decision to accept the resignation of five members of the state parole board, along with its executive director, following the shooting death last month of a Woburn police officer by a paroled career criminal.
Coakley urged Patrick to include a crime victim or victim advocate when he fills the empty seats.
Coakley said it’s critical to have a victim’s voice on the board to ensure it takes a more balanced approach to granting parole. A victim advocate would make sure prosecutors and crime victims are alerted when a prisoner is up for a hearing before the board, she said.
Middlesex District Attorney Gerard Leone said his office wasn’t notified that career criminal Dominic Cinelli was scheduled for a parole hearing in 2008. Police say Cinelli shot and killed Woburn police Officer John Maguire in December during a botched jewelry store heist. Cinelli was also killed in the gunfire.
Coakley was sworn in on Wednesday, one year to the day after losing the Senate race. She said she chose to take her oath of office at the Perkins School for the Blind for a reason.
“I want to make the point that we provide for access and leveling the playing field for everybody here, for kids, for seniors, for labor, for everybody here in Massachusetts,” she said. “I think we’ve got a pretty good foundation after these last four years.”
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