Rollins resigning as US attorney

Her lawyer says 'her presence has become a distraction'


RACHAEL ROLLINS, a former Suffolk County prosecutor who quickly rose in political prominence and often drew the ire of Republican lawmakers, will resign her role as US attorney for Massachusetts this week because “her presence has become a distraction,” her attorney said.

Rollins’s attorney, former Justice Department inspector general Michael Bromwich, announced Tuesday that she plans to submit a letter of resignation to President Joe Biden by the end of the day Friday, bringing a sudden end to a federal tenure that began less than a year and a half ago when Vice President Kamala Harris cast a decisive tiebreaking confirmation vote.

Bromwich did not provide a detailed reason or make explicit mention of previous press reports about a Justice Department watchdog investigation into Rollins.

“She is optimistic that the important work she started will continue but understands that her presence has become a distraction,” Bromwich said. “The work of the office and the Department of Justice is far too important to be overshadowed by anything else.”

The Associated Press reported in November that the DOJ’s inspector general was probing Rollins’s appearance at a political fundraiser with First Lady Jill Biden, her use of a personal cellphone for official business, and a trip she took to California paid for by an outside group.

Rollins previously faced scrutiny from the US Office of Special Counsel on whether her attendance at the July fundraiser in Andover violated the Hatch Act, which limits political activities by federal employees.

She defended her stop at the Democratic National Committee fundraiser. A day after the Boston Herald reported about her visit and published a photograph of her arriving at the event, Rollins tweeted, “I wasn’t asked for a comment before this ran. It’s almost as if the Herald didn’t want to know I had approval to meet Dr. Biden & left early to speak at 2 community events last night.”

“After the dust settles and she resigns, Rachael will make herself available to answer questions,” Bromwich said Tuesday. “Until then, she reminds the public of the vitally important work the office does and thanks her colleagues for their service to the Commonwealth and our Nation.”

It was not immediately clear who would take over the US attorney role in Massachusetts once Rollins steps down. Her office confirmed that Rollins plans to resign but did not comment further.

A former assistant U.S. attorney, Rollins previously served as general counsel at the Department of Transportation and MBTA and as chief legal counsel for the Massachusetts Port Authority.

In 2018, she topped a five-way Democratic primary for Suffolk County district attorney, then cruised to victory in the general election with 80 percent of the vote.

She brought a reform-minded approach to the DA’s office, calling for a “progressive prosecution” strategy that involved dismissing or diverting many nonviolent, lower-level cases.

The changes she pursued drew praise from criminal justice reform activists, who praised them as a way to focus resources on more serious offenses and break a cycle of incarceration. Others were more critical, such as former Republican Gov. Charlie Baker’s public safety chief, who warned that the prosecutorial approach did not “reflect the careful balance” in a 2018 criminal justice reform law.

In 2021, the National Bureau of Economic Research published an analysis of more than a decade of Suffolk County DA cases and concluded that not prosecuting defendants for lower-level crimes — like those that Rollins diverted — reduced subsequent arrests of those individuals.

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Chris Lisinski

Reporter, State House News Service
After Biden picked Rollins in July 2021, Senate Republicans loudly objected and pointed to her record as prosecutor, alleging that her push to deprioritize some offenses was “radical.”

The Senate split 50-50 along party lines, and Harris had to step in and cast the final vote to push Rollins over the line. She became the first Black woman and second woman ever to serve as U.S. attorney for Massachusetts.