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Chief Judge Mark Wolf of the District of Massachusetts followed a lengthy, laudatory Jan. 11 installation ceremony for Carmen Ortiz, the new U.S. Attorney for that district, with questions that revealed his hopes that the office will target major criminals. Wolf is known for his tough stance on prosecutorial misconduct and for public statements that many drug and gun cases brought by Ortiz’s predecessor, Michael Sullivan, belonged in state court. Wolf officially swore in Ortiz on Nov. 9 in a private ceremony. At the Jan. 11 public installation ceremony, Wolf asked Ortiz to consider questions about how to best use her office’s resources. “Are your talented assistants, and they are talented assistants, 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?” Wolf asked. Wolf then philosophized: “Should we be concerned by the fact that almost 40 percent of all federal prisoners are black more than 20 years after the Washington Post reported that Judge [now Attorney General] Eric Holder [Jr.]… was troubled by the fact that most of the defendants that appeared before him in the District of Columbia were young black men?” He also asked, “Is it necessary, or appropriate, that more than one-quarter of all federal prisoners are foreign-born?” Wolf prefaced his remarks by telling Ortiz she has the “potential to be an inspiring role model for people who desperately need role models….Your performance will determine whether that potential is realized. “As you recognized in your own comments, there are limits to what the U.S. Attorney’s office can do,” said Wolf. “I hope as you develop the priorities for the performance of your office you will consider questions like [these].” Wolf sandwiched the remarks after administering the oath of office to Ortiz and before Massachusetts State Police Sergeant James W. Connor closed the festivities by singing “God Bless America.” The ceremony included remarks by Holder, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and former Ortiz colleagues. The U.S. Senate confirmed Ortiz, the first Hispanic and first female U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts on Nov. 6. In an e-mailed statement in reaction to Wolf’s comments, Ortiz said, “I believe our Assistant United States Attorneys will be put to their highest and best use regardless of who represents the defendants. We will bring cases based on where the evidence takes us, not based on who is paying the bill.” During comments at the ceremony that preceded Wolf’s, Ortiz said, “Preventing acts of terrorism remains the first priority of this office.” Ortiz also said that cases concerning financial crimes, violent crime and organized crimes are important. She further expressed plans to expand cases concerning human trafficking, child exploitation, environmental crimes and computer-based crimes. “I fully recognize that my work will and ought to be measured not by where I came from, but by what this office does under my leadership going forward,” Ortiz said. Wolf has addressed prosecutorial misconduct in several instances. Last May, Wolf announced that the court would hold a program on discovery in criminal cases. Wolf’s announcement came in U.S. v. Jones, which involves allegations that Assistant U.S. Attorney Suzanne Sullivan violated her duty to disclose exculpatory evidence in a timely fashion. Court documents in that case state that Sullivan failed to disclose a police officer’s prior statements that conflicted with testimony about a defendant stopped while riding a bicycle and charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. Ortiz decided to make participation in that program voluntary. In addition, Wolf has sent letters to several U.S. Attorneys general criticizing the U.S. Department of Justice’s disciplining of Boston prosecutor Jeffrey Auerhahn. Wolf is concerned about Auerhahn’s conduct in prosecuting alleged mobsters Vincent Ferrara and Pasquale Barone in two District of Massachusetts cases. Auerhahn is accused of causing the release of the two men from prison by not disclosing exculpatory evidence. A three-judge panel is slated to hear a disciplinary case brought by the Massachusetts Bar Counsel against Auerhahn on Jan. 22.

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