There is Something Different About Rachael Rollins: What Is It?

Yesterday I asked if there was something different about Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins that made Governor Baker’s Secretary of Public Safety Thomas Truco III do what no other person holding that position had ever done which is to write a lengthy letter which became public criticizing her office policies. I mentioned Truco was an officious intermedder because Rollins does not operate under his jurisdiction. I also suggested the normal and traditional manner of airing disagreements is in private. Truco’s actions were so abnormal and out of the main stream that one has to consider whether he was motivated by Rollins being an African-American.

It seems what got Truco’s goat was The Rachael Rollins Policy Memo, which can be read here. I read it shortly after it came out. I found it refreshing and enlightening although it could have done with some professional editing. I have written before of the need to change the criminal justice system – I give her credit for trying. I especially give her credit because she is changing it in a way that would not have occurred to others – it is from the perspective of a black woman who has lived in her community.

One of my favorite movies (I haven’t seen that many not being a movie fan) is Amadeus. There is a scene in the movie some call apocryphal piffle in which Emperor Joseph II of Austria speaks with Amadeus Mozart after sitting through Mozart’s opera “The Abduction From the Seraglio.” The emperor tells Mozart: ”Too beautiful for our ears, my dear Mozart, and monstrous many notes.” Mozart replied: ”Exactly as many as are necessary, Your Majesty.”

I have written in the past that Massachusetts has too many crimes; the district attorneys seem to reply “exactly many as necessary” as they rush to the legislature each year discovering more acts that are “necessary” to make criminal. It is delightful to see a district attorney who “gets it.” She also believes there are too many crimes.

Unlike others she recognizes this from her life experience. She sees how many actions that should not be labeled crimes are so labeled. She understands how after a conviction on one of them a person may be tagged for life depriving him of her of future opportunities. Her ideas stopping this wrongful tagging are not new but are being presented in a bold truthful manner.

Rollins is a breath of fresh air in the office of district attorney. She has thrown out the timid book that most of them have followed. She is smart. She  understands as I did  that the district attorney has the most powerful position in the criminal justice system. In the past I have urged some district attorneys to take up the gauntlet and exercise their inherent power. They have all been afraid of doing it being very happy with the same-old, same-old. Not only are they, so are the judges who more than most don’t like change. That is why the system is basically unchanged since the early part of the 20th century if not even before that.

Rollins may have fears of bucking the system and doing what she believes is right. Fortunately, those fears are subservient to the great harm she sees that unnecessary prosecutions have brought especially to members of her community. She will face lots of opposition and push back from those dandies  like Truco and Baker and the other DAs who don’t see how her experience is compelling her actions. I’m hoping she perseveres and succeeds.

I suggest, that what she has done is only a first step in reforming our system. What we need is a great shift to making crimes into civil offenses; we must develop a modern computer system that allows most people not to lose days away from work or home by having to attend a court hearing that usually amounts to nothing; and we must think outside the cramped and suffocating  box of our present system.

Rachel Rollins was criticized in part because she was different. She’s black. She’s a woman. She’s strong. She’s outspoken. She’s determined. She’s not afraid to try something new. Was the criticism because of one of these, some of these, or all of these. Who knows. Take your pick. What we do know is that she was treated differently than other district attorneys. I only hope that her intrepidness and wisdom is long-standing.

12 replies on “There is Something Different About Rachael Rollins: What Is It?”

  1. Matt, you should start reading and listening to the women and persons of color on Fox News, or start in depth reading of Thomas Sowell . . . .Stop discriminating against conservative minorities, men and women of color on the right of the political spectrum

    You know, when I play the piano, I try very hard not to discriminate against the white and black keys . . . .

    Your ad hominem attacks on folks and identity politics-ideation stinks

  2. Disputing the claim that Turco’s criticism must be misogynistic racism because no administration had ever taken on a DA in this fashion, I said I could not recall any DA announcing such a radical change in practice and asked if you could. Can you?

    1. Brian:

      When Bill Delahunt was DA he made radical changes in the way criminal cases were handled. These are routine now but at the time he brought these changes about they were quite radical and ran into opposition from judges who felt were being interfered with. This was when he established a sexual assault unit which was followed by a victim-witness unit and then a domestic violence unit. He hired women attorneys and mostly women staff to run these units. Routine now, but back then in the mid 1970s there was great judicial push back to having women in domestic violence situations being accompanied by lawyers who pushed the judges to recognize the seriousness of the charges or other assistant das who wanted judges to listen to victims and their families prior to imposing punishment.

      He also tried to have the local police chiefs handle minor matters in their towns at the police stations rather than bringing the matters to court (sort of what Rollins is doing now) – he encouraged the use of nol pross when complaints issued even after being issued by judges – he was many years ahead and quite radical back then.

      You see by him doing that the judicial system became better where laws were passed such as 209A and requiring the victim be heard before sentencing. There was no criticism from the Public Safety Commissioner over this and if there would have been he would have been overstepping his position as Turco has done.

  3. From

    ” A memo is meant to be short, clear, and to-the-point. You’ll want to deliver your most critical information upfront, and then use subsequent paragraphs as opportunities to dive into more detail.”

    “Uprfront” in the first paragraph of the memo, not the first page or chapter.


    a public declaration of policy and aims, especially one issued before an election by a political party or candidate.
    “a manifesto for gay liberation”
    synonyms: policy statement, platform, program, declaration, proclamation, pronouncement, announcement, publication, notification; pronunciamento”

    Although titled “The Rachel Rollins Policy Memo”, that appears more to be a manifesto.

    1. Ed:

      English is a loose language. I’m sure the criticism of Rollins is not coming because she incorrectly named her writing setting out her office policy a memo. Oxford English Dictionary: a memo is a message or other information in writing sent by one person or department to another in the same business organization:

      1. Yes, English can be a loose language, but at times it does allow more precision. For example, despite both being quadrupeds that can bear a saddle and a rider, a camel is not a horse.

        A memo is a message or other written information noted for its focus, succinctness and brevity, optimally one or two pages maximum. Forty pages plus a well annotated appendix is not brief, although Rollins’ message may be as succinct as it needs to be.

  4. Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. Claims of racism and misogyny are the last refuge of scoundrels. D A Foxx in Chicago fixed the Jussi Smollett case after being pressured by Rev. Jackson and the Obamas. She denounced her critics as racists and misogynists. If you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen. Criticism of public figures is the right of any citizen. Rollins and Foxx should be less sensitive to legitimate complaints and stop hiding behind their persecution complexes. 2. The Court system in Suffolk County is not harsh or cruel. If anything it is lenient. Dershowitz claim that all the Boston Cops are liars is a complete falsehood and total smear. Pochahontas assertion that the criminal justice system in our state is racist is total nonsense. Where do they get these ignorant Harvard Law professors? Were they on the fencing team? Know Nothingism still exists in this state.

    1. Excellent comments, NC . . .the No Nothings at Harvard also targeted John Connolly to get Bill Bulger, Dershowitz and the Sterns Gang . . . .and going back to the seventeenth century you have Jeff Jacoby at the Globe calling for the SHUNNING of people
      NEANDERTHALIC THINKERS we are supposed to revere . . .they are among those I revile . . . they’re like the head of the Mass Appeals Court, Kass or Katz, who wrote in Lawyers Weekly after the 9-0 Supreme Court decision in the Parade Case that a majority of the judges in Massachusetts, his colleagues, disagreed with the Supreme Court

      No Nothings, like Nadler in Congress, blinded by their leftist ideologies

    2. NC:

      I suggest you’d say those who complained about the Jim Crow laws were also scoundrels. The Commissioner of Public Safety going public with complaints about a DA’s policies is certainly something new. Can you blame the DA for wondering why her.

  5. by the way, regarding NY new law demanding Trump’s taxes . . .didn’t we learn something about Bills of Attainder, in school . . .laws targeting one individual . . .something like that . . .or was it Ex Post Facto laws . . . .criminalizing, penalizing with civil fines, an act, after the fact

    Rollins should join the Green Tree movement . . . .Pie in the Sky government

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