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The governor should do the right thing: Continue with Rollins’ reforms

Melvin B. Miller

President Biden has selected Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins to assume the role of U.S. Attorney, and his choice must be approved by the U.S. Senate. The Senate customarily approves the president’s choice. There is little reason for the Senate to refuse approval because every U.S. Attorney is subordinate to the Attorney General. Since the Senate has already approved Merrick Garland as U.S. Attorney General, there is little justification to deny their support for his team.

Blacks in Boston have paid scant attention to the authority of the U.S. Attorney. The job includes the prosecution of federal criminal offenses as well as the representation of all federal agencies in civil law cases. Unlike federal judges who serve for an indefinite period, the U.S. Attorney serves for only as long as the president who selects him or her is in office.

Needless to say, appointment to U.S. Attorney is great recognition of a lawyer’s competence. Blacks in Boston should be pleased that another Black has been so recognized. Also, since Rollins has put her career on the line by initiating dramatic reforms as district attorney, people should be glad that she is rewarded rather than unfairly renounced.

Do not underestimate the price paid by those who have the courage to step forward and institute changes that benefit everyone. Rollins’ policy of not prosecuting petty cases has already proven to be effective. A higher percentage of those able to leave the prosecutorial process without a criminal record tend not to violate the law again.

Massachusetts was well served by Wayne Budd, its first Black U.S. Attorney, from 1989-1992. He aggressively prosecuted organized drug dealers who were rampaging in parts of Boston. Rollins, as the first Black woman in that position, will have an opportunity to establish a unique record during her time in office.

Rather than bemoan the loss of Rollins in the district attorney’s office, this is the time to petition Governor Charlie Baker to appoint a replacement who will continue with the changes that Rollins has initiated. Public support got her elected in 2018. A public demonstration that citizens are pleased with her changes will impose substantial political pressure on her successor.