The Boston Bar Association (BBA) held a forum for the candidates for Suffolk County district attorney on July 25. Five of the six candidates answered questions moderated by Suffolk University Law School Professor and former prosecutor Christina Miller and Northeastern University School of Law professor Daniel Medwed, as well as the audience. Candidate Linda Champion could not attend the forum due to a scheduling conflict.
BBA President Mark Smith said that in his 35 years of practice, there has never been an open race for the Suffolk County district attorney’s office, and said that the race is “exciting for the future of Boston.”
“2018 has already been a historic year. We’ve passed significant criminal reforms earlier in the year but the DA’s office is kind of where the rubber meets the road,” Smith said. “Now that’s where we’re going to see how these reforms are really played out in the courts throughout the Commonwealth and specifically in Suffolk County.”
With a $20 million budget and a staff of over 200, the Suffolk County DA’s office is the largest in the state.
For about an hour and a half, the five candidates gave responses to questions about critiques of the current office, how they would guide their assistant district attorneys in certain situations, the opioid epidemic, and racial disparities in the criminal justice system, to name a few.
With the current political climate, immigration was also a topic of discussion. The candidates were asked about their opinions on ICE’s presence in and around courthouses.
Former Assistant U.S. Attorney and MassPort, MassDOT, and MBTA General Counsel Rachael Rollins said that she’d like to see an immigration lawyer in the DA’s office, and that if any ADAs see someone being detained, they need to contact the DA directly.
State Rep. Evandro Carvalho, an immigrant who came to the United States when he was 15 years old, said, “I will have zero tolerance for ICE in the courtroom,” in response to the question.
Assistant District Attorney Greg Henning said that prosecutors should receive training on new developments in immigration law, and agrees with Carvalho that ICE should not be present in court, because their presence “makes it more difficult to do our jobs,” he said.
Defense attorney Mike Maloney believes that ICE in courtrooms is “atrocious.” He said that he’s a strong proponent of criminal justice reform, and that if a person is charged with a violent crime, their immigration status should not give them any breaks.
Former Roca Director and CPCS Attorney Shannon McAuliffe said that ICE does not belong in places where people are trying to better themselves, such as the courtroom or schools. She believes that a minimal crime does not deserve “disastrous disproportionate consequence.”
The candidates were each given one minute to answer each question, and thirty seconds for rebuttal. At the end, they each offered closing remarks about why they feel they are the best candidate for the position.
Carvalho believes he’s the most qualified in part because he knew no English at 15 years old, and now 25 years later, he’s running for DA. Henning said that he’s “dedicated to the work,” as this is work he has done in the prosecutor’s office. Maloney said “I have represented too many individuals who have gotten caught up in the system,” and believes that “you cannot incarcerate your way out of the system.”
“I’ve always been part of the change that I want to see in the system,” McAuliffe said. She believes that the next DA should try and “make an unfair system more fair.”
Lastly, Rollins said that “lens matters, experience matters, and management matters.” She believes her experience with managing large groups of people would help her in this position. “I will bring that empathy with me every day,” she said.
The forum was co-sponsored by six affinity bar partners: the Asian American Lawyers Association of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Association of Hispanic Attorneys, the Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association, the Massachusetts Black Women Attorneys, the Massachusetts LGBTQ Bar Association, and the Southeast Asian Bar Association of Greater Boston. To hear the candidates’ full responses to all questions at the forum, visit the BBA’s Facebook page to view the full video.