Meet District Attorney Rollins
Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins is the chief law enforcement official for Boston, Chelsea, Revere, and Winthrop, Massachusetts, and oversees an office of approximately 300 people handling approximately 35,000 new cases each year. She took office on Jan. 2, 2019, as Suffolk County’s 16th district attorney, the first woman to be elected to that position in Suffolk County history, and the first woman of color ever to serve as a Massachusetts district attorney.
In 2018, the people of Suffolk County chose District Attorney Rollins to represent them as their district attorney – and to effect meaningful, substantive reform to the criminal justice system. She pledged to pursue that mission tirelessly by reducing incarceration, correcting racial and ethnic disparities, adopting alternatives to traditional prosecution, focusing the offices limited resources on serious and violent crimes, and improving relationships between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve.
Among her first and most impactful initiatives, District Attorney Rollins implemented a policy of presumptively dismissing and/or diverting certain low-level misdemeanor charges. These offenses are often symptomatic not of criminal intent but of mental illness, substance use disorder, and poverty. Instead of using her limited resources to prosecute and incarcerate these offenders, District Attorney Rollins seeks to hold them accountable while providing access to services and treatment to address the underlying issues that likely led the individual to offend. This progressive approach is designed to reduce the likelihood that an individual will reoffend and improve the safety and wellbeing of impacted communities.
Upon taking office, District Attorney Rollins recognized that immigrant victims, witnesses, and offenders were often afraid to appear in court due to federal authorities’ use of state courts to conduct civil immigration arrests. As a result, prosecutors have been unable to prove criminal cases where witnesses and victims did not appear for trial and vulnerable immigrants lacked access to the vital protections of the court, such as restraining orders, and services of the probate and housing courts. Additionally, violent offenders charged but not yet prosecuted in Suffolk County were being removed by ICE. This was done with no communication with the District Attorney’s Office or the victims of the crime. In response, District Attorney Rollins helped lead the charge in filing an injunction in federal court to end civil arrests in state courthouses and ensure that all community members have equal access to justice through the courts.
District Attorney Rollins has also undertaken a long term project to ensure that each of Suffolk County’s more than 1,000 unsolved homicides receives a comprehensive administrative and legal review. This represents one of the most ambitious efforts thus far in her commitment to better serve homicide survivors as well as victims of all crime in Boston, Chelsea, Revere, and Winthrop.
In addition, District Attorney Rollins revolutionized the way that police-involved fatalities are reviewed when she appointed an outside panel of investigators. By committing to an external review of every police-involved fatal shooting, District Attorney Rollins aims to reassure the public of the integrity and independence of each investigation. The practice brings an unparalleled level of transparency to these investigations with the hope of increasing the public’s trust in the District Attorney’s Office and the police.
Prior to seeking elected office, District Attorney Rollins served as a field attorney with the National Labor Relations Board in Boston, safeguarding employees’ rights; as an attorney with the law firm of Bingham McCutchen, handling first amendment, labor and employment, complex civil litigation, and criminal defense matters; and participated in an assistant district attorney rotation in Brockton District Court.
Beginning in 2007, District Attorney Rollins served as an assistant United States attorney with the US Attorney’s office in Boston, handling cases that included fraud, employment discrimination, sexual violence, child abuse, gun trafficking, narcotics, and public integrity matters. In 2011, she was selected by Governor Deval Patrick’s administration as the first person of color to serve as the General Counsel of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and was soon named the first female general counsel of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. In 2013, she was recruited to become the Chief Legal Counsel of the Massachusetts Port Authority.
An attorney for 20 years with degrees from Northeastern University School of Law and Georgetown University Law Center, District Attorney Rollins is also a former Governor Deval Patrick appointee to the Judicial Nominating Commission, a past president of the Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association, and was elected and served a three year term on the Boston Bar Association Council. She is a recipient of the Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association’s Trailblazer of the Year Award, was selected as Massachusetts Lawyer’s Weekly Attorney of the Year in 2018, and received the Ida B. Wells-Barnett Award from the Boston Branch of the NAACP.