Northwestern District Attorney David E. Sullivan addressed the League of Women Voters Opening Meeting on September 30 at the Amherst Woman’s Club. Sullivan has served in his elected position since January, 2011. Unlike many DAs, he did not come to this position from work as a prosecutor but, more unconventionally, from a city attorney position in Easthampton followed by eight years as Hampshire Register of Probate, where he worked to make the Hampshire Probate and Family Court more accessible for all citizens and to establish mediation alternatives to mitigate conflict and reduce court costs. In 2008, he was one of two Massachusetts lawyers chosen to receive the Massachusetts Bar Foundation's President's Award for "extraordinary volunteerism, leadership, and commitment to increasing access to justice in Massachusetts."
His work and initiatives in his current position reflect this long-time commitment to making the justice system work. His on-line biography states that as DA, “Sullivan has embraced a community prosecution model that blends smart and fair prosecutions, crime prevention, law enforcement partnerships and community collaboration to build safer communities” throughout his district, which includes all of Hampshire and Franklin counties and also the town of Athol. On September 30, he spoke extensively about some of his initiatives:
- His office deals with 1600 to 1800 domestic violence cases a year. Sullivan is proud of the network the office has established for helping the victims, beginning at the police station or the ER, and of a ststen for identifying some 100 or 125 high-risk “repeat offenders” so that appropriate bail can be set.
- The office also receives some 5000 notifications of suspected child abuse or neglect cases a year, of which perhaps 250 to 300 turn out to be serious. The office has established child advocacy centers (one in Northampton and one opening soon in Greenfield) where the victims can tell their stories once, assisted by well-trained investigators.
- Sullivan was particularly passionate about the drug problem in his district, ascribing much of it to a pervasive culture that there is a pill for every ailment, physical or mental. He has worked to break down the silos among the myriad of departments and organizations dealing with this problem.
Other things mentioned included resorative justice training in schools as a possible way to break into the school-to-prison pipeline; diversion of individuals charged with illegal drug possession away from prison; and the obligation of the DA to produce any available exculpatory evidence for a grand jury hearing. Much more can be found at the web site of the Northwestern District DA's office.
The Opening Meeting was recorded by Amherst Media.