The chief judge of the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts used the investiture ceremony of Boston-based U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz on Monday to press prosecutors about their priorities, The National Law Journal reported today.
With Attorney General Eric Holder in attendance, Chief Judge Mark Wolf asked Ortiz whether her staff is “being put to their highest and best use when two-thirds of the defendants in this federal district court are indigent and must have Criminal Justice Act counsel,” according to the NLJ.
Wolf has been vocal about what he sees prosecutorial misconduct in the district, and the gun and drug cases that Bush U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan tried in district court, The NLJ said.
“I hope as you develop the priorities for the performance of your office you will consider questions like” those, Wolf said at the ceremony, according to The NLJ.
Ortiz, the state’s first Hispanic and female U.S. Attorney, downplayed the judge’s remarks in a statement to the NLJ. Though the U.S. Attorney said at the ceremony that fighting terrorism is her “first priority,” she also said her office will focus its attention on crimes ranging from human trafficking to environmental crimes, The NLJ said.
“I believe our Assistant United States Attorneys will be put to their highest and best use regardless of who represents the defendants,” Ortiz said in the statement. “We will bring cases based on where the evidence takes us, not based on who is paying the bill.”
We reported in May that Wolf rebuked Massachusetts Assistant US Attorney Suzanne Sullivan for withholding evidence that could have helped a defendant in a gun case.
Wolf also wrote a letter to Holder in April expressing his “renewed hope” that the Attorney General would address judges’ concerns about prosecutors’ conduct. Then-Attorneys General Alberto Gonzales and Michael Mukasey did not respond to similar letters from Wolf.
Wolf added in the letter that U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan’s decision to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the mishandling of the Sen. Ted Stevens public corruption case “confirms that other judges share my concern.”