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Carmen Ortiz Talks Shop

Veteran prosecutor provides insight into life of US Attorney.

Photograph by Christopher Soldt, MTS, BC

Former US Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Carmen Ortiz was a ubiquitous presence on campus last semester as BC Law’s Jerome Lyle Rappaport Visiting Professor. In addition to teaching a seminar on terrorism and national security, she appeared on a number of panels and presented a signature lecture on her experiences in office. She served during one of the most tumultuous periods in the state’s recent history, a seven-year stretch that included the prosecution of gangster James “Whitey” Bulger and Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. “At the end of the day you can’t make everyone happy but you always try to do the right thing,” she said during the inaugural speech, referring to the logistical, political, legal, and humanitarian factors that figure into such cases.

The Rappaport Center for Law and Public Policy either hosted or co-sponsored other events in which Ortiz participated.

  • She moderated “Litigating the Second Amendment,” a dialogue between John Rosenthal, founder and president of Stop Handgun Violence, and Alan Gura, a Supreme Court litigator who successfully argued for gun owners’ rights in District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago. Gura said that part of the problem in the gun debate is cultural. “Lots of people don’t have guns and see no value in them, so restrictions seem reasonable to them,” he explained. “People are speaking past each other.” Rosenthal presented a trove of statistics and made an activist’s case for stricter and common sense regulation. Their conversation was co-sponsored by the Federalist Society and BC Law Democrats.
  • “Crimes of Terror or Crimes of Hate” brought Ortiz together with US Attorneys from North Carolina and Central California, who argued that the fundamental framework of terror is a violent act aimed at influencing government or mass populations so as to impact policy and the people. Each panelist shared a detailed account of her response to the tragedies that occurred during her watch— Beth Drake on the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church shooting and Eileen Decker on the mass attack in San Bernardino—touching on issues of jurisdiction, working with victims, prosecutorial decisions, the death penalty, community responses, and federal/state law enforcement collaborations.