On January 10th, Rachael Rollins became the first Black woman to hold the position of Massachusetts U.S. attorney. Rollins formerly held the job of Suffolk County DA, where she was known for taking a progressive stance and pushing for reform. During her time as DA, Rollins shifted the focus from misdemeanor offenses to violent crimes. For two out of the 3 years Rollins was in office, the murder rate declined despite a national trend of rising murders in U.S. cities.
In Rachael Rollins’ new job as U.S. Attorney she will be answering directly to the U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland. Rollins explained some of the differences and similarities between the two jobs in an interview. The U.S. Attorney is a presidential appointment, in which Rollins has to co-ordinate with the Justice Department and higher-ups in Washington. In the District Attorney role Rollins explained that as someone elected to the job she had to answer to voters alone. Rollins has said her new role won’t stop her from her pursuing her commitments to police reform.
There are 93 U.S. Attorneys in the U.S. The U.S. Attorney is a member of the Department of Justice and acts under the direction of the Attorney General to enforce federal laws within the jurisdiction and represent the federal government in civil and criminal cases. The U.S. Attorney is appointed by the President, confirmed by the Senate and serves a term of four years. According to 28 U.S.C. § 547, the role of the United States Attorney is to: (1) prosecute criminal cases brought by the federal government; (2) prosecute or defend civil cases where the United States is a party; and (3) collect debts owed to the federal government when administrative agencies are unable to do so.
The DA represents the county and is the chief prosecutor for the county. The DA mostly deals with state crimes. The DA also has a responsibility to investigate local law enforcement. The U.S. Attorney however represents the U.S. in federal cases. The U.S. Attorney has authority over federal law enforcement officers rather than state and local law enforcement. This includes many types of federal crimes and white collar crimes.
As Suffolk County DA, Rachael Rollins built a reputation for holding law enforcement officers accountable. She released what are known as “Brady lists,” which are lists of officers that DAs have concerns about.
In Raquel Rollins’ new role as U.S. Attorney she will be working with federal branches of law enforcement such as the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Drug Enforcement Administration and the United States Secret Service. In her past role as DA, Rachael Rollins sued ICE and got an injunction granted. Rollins will now be required to defend ICE in her role of U.S. Attorney. Marijuana is illegal at a federal level, so Rollins will now have to switch her focus from enforcing Massachusetts state drug law to enforcing federal drug law.
When it comes to holding law enforcement officers accountable, Rollins explained her new role: “The push is different in that it’s more of a pattern and practice investigation on the civil side, or, depending on what we’re looking at, a public integrity investigation.”
Rollins noted a complaint filed with her predecessor by a Worcester civil rights lawyer regarding the conduct of the Worcester drug and gang units. The complaint alleges that the officers were routinely violating civil rights and that prosecutors were failing to meet their ethical obligations to inform defendants of credibility or misconduct concerns. Rollins said that warning defendants about potentially problematic witnesses is a serious legal obligation. She remarked that prosecutors often first hear of problems with law enforcement officers through media accounts, and that it’s “important that our press has access to information about misconduct concerns.”
Rollins has reiterated her commitment to reform and said her priorities in the job will be tackling human trafficking, violent crime, health care fraud and police misconduct.
Rollins singled out health care fraud as an increasingly lucrative area of white collar crime worth targeting. She pointed out that her assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua Levy has extensive experience litigating in the areas of pharmaceutical, medical device and health information technology.
As new U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Rachael Rollins is likely to continue her commitment to reform and focus on prosecuting the most serious violent crimes and white collar crimes on her desk At Dhar Law, LLP, we support this historic appointment and look forward to witnessing the unique stamp Rachael Rollins will bring to her job.
If you have been accused of a serious federal crime, such as a violent crime or white collar crime, please contact our hard-hitting and experienced attorneys. We have extensive experience defending the most serious federal and white collar crimes and we can help ensure you get a fair trial when faced with highly trained federal prosecutors.