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Law school graduate Rachael Rollins confirmed to a top Justice Department post

Rachael Rollins, who obtained a law degree from Northeastern, won Senate confirmation to be the next U.S. attorney for Massachusetts. Photo by Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Northeastern alumna Rachael Rollins overcame senators’ concerns about her progressive views on criminal justice reform to become the next U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, elevating the Boston-area district attorney to one of only 93 federal attorneys in the country.

Vice President Kamala Harris broke a 50-50 tie in the U.S. Senate, allowing Rollins’s confirmation to the senior Justice Department post to go through on Wednesday afternoon, eliciting pride and excitement from the law school community.

“Rachael has been an inspiring role model for people of color and women, from her days as a law student to her election as Suffolk County District Attorney to this historic moment,” says James Hackney, dean of the Northeastern School of Law, from which Rollins graduated in 1997. “I am confident she will combine tenacity with wisdom as she assumes the responsibilities of this important office.”

man wearing suit and tie

‘Rachael has been an inspiring role model for people of color and women, from her days as a law student to her election as Suffolk County District Attorney to this historic moment,’ says James Hackney, dean of Northeastern’s law school. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

President Biden nominated Rollins for the job in July, but Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton put the brakes on the confirmation process in order to convince his Republican colleagues to oppose the nomination. Cotton, a Republican, has described Rollins as a “pro-criminal radical.”

She fired back at the charges in a radio interview, saying “Boston remains one of the only, if not the only, major city in the United States of America where violent crime is down.”

Republican opposition to her forced the Senate to hold its first roll call vote to confirm a U.S. attorney since 1975.

Dan Jackson, a law school classmate of Rollins’, remembers her fearlessness, he said.

“I distinctly recall several instances during our first year in law school [of] her challenging the faculty on issues related to race and equity, and how those topics were being addressed in the classroom,” said Jackson, who now leads the university’s interdisciplinary NULawLab. “And I just remember being struck by how―and I use this word many times―how fearless she was, and still is, in that she doesn’t hesitate to speak truth to power.”

Law school officials believe Rollins is the first Northeastern law grad in modern times (the law school is more than 100 years old) to oversee federal criminal cases in Massachusetts. Emily Rice, a 1984 graduate, held the same post in New Hampshire after being nominated by President Barack Obama.

Rollins won’t be the first with a Northeastern connection to join the Biden administration.

Shalanda Baker took a job in the Energy Department earlier this year; Rashida Richardson is at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; and Margaret Burnham was tapped for a new board that will make it easier to access the records of unsolved murders of Black people during the Civil Rights era.

For media inquiries, please contact media@northeastern.edu.

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