Rachel Rollins Confirmed as Next U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts, First Black Woman to Fill Role

Suffolk County DA Rachael Rollins speaking in San Francisco in February 2020

By Katherine Coviello and Alexander Ramirez

BOSTON, MASS – Rachael Rollins was confirmed by the Senate last week – after Vice President Kamala Harris broke the 50-50 Senate tie – as the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts, making her the first Black woman to occupy the role. She succeeds Andrew E. Lelling who resigned earlier this year.

Although the Senate vote was split, according to Krinsky in a separate statement made in October, over 65 elected prosecutors backed Rollins’ nomination for U.S. Attorney.

Fair and Just Prosecution Executive Director Miriam Krinsky said in a statement, “We are thrilled that the United States Senate has confirmed Rachael Rollins as U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, the first Black woman to serve in this role.

“During her time as Suffolk County District Attorney, she has been a trailblazing leader who has worked tirelessly to make her community safer, counter racial discrimination, end the criminalization of poverty and promote fairness in Boston’s justice system. Her leadership at the federal level will create a more fair and just criminal legal system that promotes safer and healthier communities not just in her state but also nationwide.”

In 2018, as a District Attorney, Rollins released a comprehensive 65-page policy memo that detailed her plans and instructions as to how her staff should handle low-level, non-violent offenses. These were offenses that were often linked to poverty and desperation and people who posed no real safety threat outside of the justice system.

Independent researchers looked into 67,000 prosecuted cases across 17 years in Suffolk County and found that people who were not charged because of Rollins’ policy were dramatically less likely to be re-arrested.

“This is a roadmap to a criminal justice system that works equally for everyone, based on research, data, and input from across the spectrum of stakeholders,” Rollins said about her policy memo.

Rollins graduated from Georgetown University Law Center with a Masters in Law in 1999. In the time since she has worked in many roles including as a Field Attorney for the National Labor Relations Board, Associate at Bingham McCutchen, Assistant United States Attorney, General Counsel for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, and Chief Legal Counsel of the Massachusetts Port Authority.

Most recently, Rollins was the District Attorney for Suffolk County where she was the first woman of color to be elected as such in Massachusetts.

Notable initiatives from Rollins also include the Discharge Integrity Team which assisted investigating officer involved shootings and excessive force allegations and the Integrity Review Bureau which reviewed post-conviction claims of innocence and unconstitutional and unjust convictions.

About The Author

Alexander Ramirez is a third-year Political Science major at the University of California, Davis. He hopes to hone his writing skills in preparation for the inevitable time of graduation.

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