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Retired judge to Rollins: Please stay. Suffolk County needs you.

Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins, photographed in her office on Aug. 19. She was nominated by President Biden to be the next United States attorney in Massachusetts.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff

Dear District Attorney Rachael Rollins:

First, I salute you for a job well done prosecuting criminal defendants and keeping them off the street. I also salute you and your office for bringing a much-needed voice never before heard in any Massachusetts district attorney’s office during my professional career.

Your nomination to become US attorney has been held up in the US Senate. This is my plea: Do not accept the position. Although it would be a large career step, the communities of color within Suffolk County need your presence. Your mission here is not complete.

When the people of Suffolk County elected you, I knew they made a good choice. What they voted for was a fairer criminal justice system. They were frustrated with the old way, and with years of district attorneys — mostly white males — who appealed to their base to get reelected through incarceration and more incarceration.

As you certainly know, I am Black. I retired from the bench after 25 years. Although I do not live in Suffolk County, as a judge I sat in many district courts in those communities, mostly communities of color. I heard thousands of cases every year, mostly criminal. I observed district attorneys who had little discretion, too many cases, and little time to see the victims or the defendant before them, especially if they were people of color.


Since taking office in 2019, your outspokenness and desire to do what is right have shown us where your mind and heart are. You have always had one eye on the scales of justice. We imprison or hold a disproportionate number of men and women of color on bail in Massachusetts. You know that the system is broken and that the never-ending cycle described as the New Jim Crow must be curtailed. As Suffolk district attorney, you have an opportunity to do that.


You have set a course for all of us in the criminal justice system to follow. However, your job is not done. It will be done when you have had an impact on the incarceration rate in Massachusetts. It will be done when other district attorneys adopt your method of managing their offices. Business as usual will not correct the inherent flaws in the system.

Please stay.

Severlin B. Singleton III


The writer is a retired Cambridge District Court judge.