Carmen Ortiz – uAspire First One Awards Boston

By: Chris Loney | Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Carmen Ortiz

US Attorney

Carmen Ortiz received her B.A. from Adelphi University in New York and J.D. from George Washington University Law School. In 2010, she was sworn in as the United States Attorney for Massachusetts, having received President Barack Obama’s nomination and a unanimous confirmation by the U.S. Senate.  Carmen, who is of Puerto Rican heritage, is the first Hispanic and the first woman to represent Massachusetts as U.S. Attorney.

Although Carmen grew up as the oldest of five children in a housing project in the Bronx, and her mother never made it to high school, she had tremendous encouragement from both of her parents to pursue her education. As her father’s taxi business improved and then lagged, the family moved from the projects to Long Island and back, forcing Carmen to fluctuate between a number of Catholic and public schools. Regardless, she always worked hard to stay at the top of her class in order to achieve her goal of becoming a lawyer.

Despite her work ethic, there were challenges.  Finding tuition for school drained her family.  She declared independence from them while in college and took care of her younger sister, as her mother was ill. Carmen’s greatest challenge, however, was dealing with her husband’s cancer diagnosis and subsequent death. As a widow supporting her family, Carmen didn’t believe she could devote the time to take her career to the level that she once had hoped for. But through a friend’s encouragement, she applied for and was appointed to her current position as a U.S. attorney.

Highly respected in the legal community for her work on both sides of the justice system, she has distinguished herself in public service. In her role as U.S. Attorney, she has presided over numerous successful convictions in protection of the public interest.  In 2010, she implemented the District’s first civil rights initiative, aimed at reinvigorating enforcement efforts of federal civil rights laws and supporting affected communities through extensive community outreach efforts.

Carmen has taught at Northeastern’s School of Law and helped establish the Michael V. Morisi Scholarship Fund for Boston College law students.  As a Program Associate and Training Coordinator at the Harvard Law School’s Center for Criminal Justice, she worked to implement criminal justice reforms in Guatemala, spending several months teaching and coaching Guatemalan lawyers and judges.

Keenly aware of her position as a Hispanic woman of humble beginnings, Carmen has encouraged others to follow in her footsteps. As a former Board member of Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy at UMass Boston, she worked to promote women’s education and involvement in public service. She also worked with the Cambridge and Somerville Legal Services which provides free civil legal assistance to low-income families.  Carmen has also served as a Board member of the Massachusetts Association of Hispanic Attorneys and been widely recognized for her outstanding public service, receiving the George Washington University Law School’s Distinguished Public Service Award; Alianza Hispana’s Lifetime Achievement Award; the Massachusetts Women’s Bar Association’s Pioneering Women of Color Award; and the Women in Federal Law Enforcement Foundation’s President’s Award.

The mother of two daughters, whom she supported and put through college, she understands the importance of education in her own life, and strove to ensure her children and others were afforded the same opportunity.