A longtime Superior Court judge who presided over the Aaron Hernandez trial for double homicide has been appointed chief justice of the state Trial Court, replacing Paula M. Carey, who announced her retirement in October, officials said Thursday.
Jeffrey A. Locke, a Superior Court judge since 2001 and chairman of the Massachusetts Sentencing Commission, will step into the role on Jan. 19, one day after Carey steps down, according to a statement from the Trial Court.
As chief justice, Locke will oversee the Boston Municipal, District, Housing, Juvenile, Land, Probate and Family, and Superior courts, the Office of Jury Commissioner, and the Office of the Commissioner of Probation — an operation that includes 385 judges and 6,300 staff across 97 courthouses, according to the statement.
Locke said he was honored by the appointment.
“Working with the many talented trial court managers, starting with Court Administrator John Bello and the dedicated Trial Court departmental chief justices, I will strive to address immediate challenges resulting from the pandemic and also build on improvements put in place by Chief Justice Carey,” Locke said in the statement.
In 2017, Locke presided over the double-murder trial of former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez in Suffolk Superior Court. Hernandez was acquitted in that trial but died by suicide in prison while serving a life sentence for an earlier murder conviction.
Locke served as the regional administrative justice for criminal cases in Suffolk County from 2012 to 2015, and for all cases in Plymouth County from 2007 to 2011. He has also served on the Supreme Judicial Court’s Standing Advisory Committee on the Rules of Criminal Procedure, the Trial Court Fiscal Task Force, and the Superior Court Committee on Sentencing Best Practices, according to the statement.
Before becoming a judge, he worked in the Middlesex district attorney’s office and was an assistant US attorney for eight years, serving as deputy chief of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force from 1994 to 1997. He was the Norfolk district attorney from 1997 to 1999 and then commissioner of the Department of Social Services from 1999 to 2001, according to the statement.
Locke received his law degree from Boston University and has taught at Northeastern School of Law and Boston College Law School, the statement said.
Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Kimberly S. Budd called Locke “the right person for these times.”
“Judge Locke’s experience, skills and dedication to the mission of the Trial Court will allow him, working with the Court Administrator, to effectively lead the Trial Court in this challenging period,” Budd said in the statement.
She went on to thank Carey “for her passion and unflagging energy as Chief Justice of the Trial Court over the past eight years.”
“She worked tirelessly to improve access to justice, and diversity, equity, and inclusion for all who work in and use our courts and to shepherd the Trial Court through the pandemic with perseverance and determination,” Budd said.