U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz hails law school’s strong community ties, commitment to public service at 102nd Commencement
(Boston, Revised-5/29/13) New England Law | Boston: Crime rates were at an all-time high when U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz began her legal career with the U.S. Department of Justice in the 1980s. While murder rates and the proliferation of illegal drugs have declined, she remains on the frontlines of public safety, with the marathon bombings among her many current concerns.
U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz
Ms. Ortiz has found satisfaction in a challenging path, and advised New England Law | Boston graduates to do likewise in the 102nd Commencement address. She described her accomplishments as a public servant and highlighted New England Law criminal justice and immigration law projects through which students gain first-hand exposure to public service.
“U.S. Attorney Ortiz has had a remarkable career in public service and law, courageously tackling some of the most challenging issues of the day and offering an outstanding example of the importance of law in modern society,” said Dean John F. O’Brien. “We were honored to welcome her as our Commencement speaker.”
Ms. Ortiz has dedicated much of her professional career to public service and is the first Hispanic and first woman to represent Massachusetts as United States Attorney. She has received numerous awards for her commitment to public service, including (in 2012) being named the Boston Globe’s “Bostonian of the Year” and El Mundo’s “Latina of the Year.” New England Law | Boston awarded her an honorary doctor of laws degree in 2012.
As the Commonwealth’s chief federal law enforcement officer, Ms. Ortiz supervises the prosecution of all federal crimes and the litigation of all civil matters in which the federal government has an interest. She oversees the work of more than 200 attorneys and support staff in Boston, Springfield, and Worcester.
Her top priorities include terrorism and national security, civil rights, and violent and white-collar crime reduction, which encompasses public corruption, financial, and healthcare fraud. In 2010, she implemented the district’s first civil rights initiative, aimed at reinvigorating enforcement efforts of federal civil rights laws and increasing visibility among affected communities through extensive community outreach efforts. In addition, Ms. Ortiz serves on Attorney General Eric Holder’s Advisory Committee (AGAC) and is chair of the AGAC’s Healthcare Fraud Working Group.
Before becoming U.S. attorney, she was an assistant U.S. attorney in the Economic Crimes Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office (Massachusetts) and served as grand jury supervisor. Ms. Ortiz also served for eight years as a state prosecutor in Middlesex County, where she oversaw the district court and prosecuted homicides, sexual assaults, robberies, and other felony cases.
“Time and again, my path led to public service,” said Ms. Ortiz, whose assignments have been diverse and difficult. The problems of the crime-ridden 1980s, when she began her career, have been replaced by “…a new set of challenges: immigration reform, gun control, criminal justice reform, and national security, to name just a few.” She encouraged graduates to “Imagine what challenges you will confront during the course of your career… as you begin to determine what role you might play in formulating the future of justice.”
Because the future is unpredictable, graduates should remain open to all possibilities, she added. “As a young Hispanic girl growing up in the housing projects of Spanish Harlem, I could never have imagined that one day I would be delivering a commencement address.” Ms. Ortiz believes, however, that our choices can shape the road ahead, and she encouraged graduates to “take the path of most resistance.”
Do what challenges you, advised Ms. Ortiz, who earned a J.D. from George Washington University Law School and a B.B.A. from Adelphi University. “That’s what you’ll learn the most from. And that’s the job that will give you the most satisfaction when you master it.”
Honorary degrees were presented to the Honorable Michael J. Astrue, United States Commissioner of Social Security (2007-2013) (doctor of laws degree); the Honorable Robert A. Mulligan, Chief Justice of the Trial Court of Massachusetts (doctor of laws); and Joan Wallace-Benjamin, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer, The Home for Little Wanderers (doctor of humanities).