ACLU lawyer Rahsaan Hall weighing run for Plymouth DA
Brockton resident could challenge Republican incumbent Timothy Cruz
FOUR YEARS AGO, Rahsaan Hall, director of the racial justice program for the ACLU of Massachusetts, led a statewide campaign calling attention to the importance of elections for district attorney. Now, the Brockton resident is putting his money where his mouth is and considering his own run for Plymouth County district attorney.
“I’d like to take this time to talk to residents of Plymouth County and explore what a potential candidacy like mine would mean to people here,” Hall said in a phone interview Thursday.
Hall filed papers Thursday with the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance to organize a campaign committee. He listed Philip Hillman, chief operating officer of the Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation, as his committee treasurer.
Hall said he plans to leave his job at the ACLU December 31.
Cruz won his last election against Democrat John Bradley with 57 percent of the vote. He has nearly $100,000 in his campaign bank account.
Hall, a Democrat, is a progressive attorney who has cut a profile in the state as a well-known Black activist and strong crusader for racial justice.
Hall was active in advocating passage of the state’s 2018 criminal justice reform law, which included repeal of mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenses. He helped lobby for a 2020 police reform bill, calling for limits on qualified immunity and on police use of force. He also backed legalization of recreational marijuana, arguing the disproportionate enforcement of drug laws harms the Black community. He has been vocal in cases involving suspected wrongful convictions.
William Dickerson, executive director of Brockton Interfaith Community, said Hall attends court dates with individuals to support them, ensure the process runs smoothly, and act as a mediator if problems arise.
Dickerson said community members know they can call Hall any time they have problems involving the police or incarceration. “He’s just very attentive to community needs, always willing to jump out there and support the community,” Dickerson said.
Lew Finfer, a liberal-leaning community organizer working with the Massachusetts Communities Action Network, said of Hall, “He has such a strong record, and he balances being able to listen to people with also being able to take action and call out the needs and inconsistencies that can hamper people in the criminal justice system.”
Hall grew up in Denver and attended Ohio State University, Northeastern University School of Law, and Andover Newton Theological School. He is an ordained minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. He worked for eight years as an assistant district attorney in Suffolk County, then worked at Lawyers for Civil Rights before coming to the ACLU.
Hall said he learned through that campaign “how little people knew about the role, power, and influence of district attorneys, and the type of impact that the DA can have on people’s lives.”
State prosecutors have often defended the status quo in the criminal justice system, and at times butting heads with liberal-leaning organizations like the ACLU that are pushing for change. But in 2018, Massachusetts voters selected two notable progressive district attorneys who promised reform – Rachael Rollins in Suffolk County, who was just confirmed as US attorney for Massachusetts under President Biden, and Andrea Harrington in Berkshire County. Hall cited Rollins, Harrington, and Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan as models who have “shifted the landscape of what is possible in the DA’s office.”
Hall said his priorities as district attorney would be addressing racial disparities in prosecutions, taking a harm reduction approach to dealing with opioid addiction, and “centering and prioritizing the voice and experience of victims and survivors of violent crime.”Hall questioned the “integrity and professionalism” of Cruz’s office, citing as an example a murder case that was thrown out in part because of racist emails written by prosecutors.
Cruz has been a prominent voice supporting the use of mandatory minimum sentences, arguing that they create uniformity and consistency in sentencing. He has pushed for stricter laws to ensure sexually dangerous criminals remain incarcerated. The Republican DA has served three terms as president of Massachusetts District Attorneys Association.