SPRINGFIELD – U.S. assistant attorney Deepika Bains Shukla is among four shortlisted candidates to replace outgoing Massachusetts attorney Andrew Lelling.
Shukla, 39, has been the head of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Springfield since 2019. After serving several years as a New York City housing organizer and attorney, and later as a lawyer with anti-discrimination agencies, she joined the ranks of prosecutors. As a woman of Indian descent, she is the youngest head of the office, the first woman, and the first black woman to hold the post.
The shortlist first reported by the Boston Globe includes Shukla; Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins; U.S. Assistant Attorney Jennifer Serafyn, Boston Civil Rights Director; and Josh Levy, former US associate attorney and partner at Ropes & Gray, one of the most prominent law firms in Boston.
Shukla declined to comment on this story.
However, two local lawyers confirmed they had recently received calls from members of an advisory board that had gathered to investigate candidates before moving on to the next step in the process, which was controlled by U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey.
“I think she has a high level of integrity. … I think she’s very honest, “said Northampton Criminal Defense Attorney David P. Hoose, President of Greater Springfield Lawyers for Justice.” I think she’s open to change in the way it does that Things have been done in the past. I don’t expect her to be a flaming radical if selected, but I think she is open to listening to the defense bar and others to see things differently. “
Springfield attorney John Pucci also declined to be interviewed for this story, among two members of the Western Massachusetts advisory board seeking potential successors for Lelling’s job. However, in a previous interview, Pucci also said he welcomed a candidate with an eye for changes in the judicial system.
Because of the geography, Shukla may be a Dark Horse candidate. Western Massachusetts Bar Association members historically have tended to be frozen out of many statewide legal and judicial appointments in favor of candidates from the greater Boston area. However, Hoose and others say Shukla is very competent and fits the political zeitgeist as a young, progressive woman of color.
“To me, she’s always been sensible and measured and not a flamethrower at all,” said Berkshire County’s attorney Lori H. Levinson, who was on the other side of law enforcement for former Lee Police Chief Joseph Buffi’s corruption related to a children’s charitable toy fund for children associated with the police. “I thought she balanced the ticket well.”
Shukla is from Massachusetts and graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with the School of Law in 2007. She previously served as a tenant organizer in Bronx, New York, plaintiff’s civil rights attorney, and at the Connecticut Fair Housing Center in Hartford, Connecticut. Shukla also worked as a litigation attorney at Davis Polk, a large New York City firm.
While in Springfield, Shukla has tracked police corruption, drug and weapon cases, and a terrorism case against Alex Ciccolo, an Adams man who appears to be courted by Islamic State Group online initiatives and for conspiracy to terrorize colleges and other public institutions was convicted. Law enforcement agencies thwarted these attacks, according to lawyers involved in the case.
Rollins, who was at the forefront in the race for the US attorney, got into an alleged “street hype” with another driver in a parking lot in a shopping mall on Christmas Eve. A witness said Rollins threatened to “write her a ticket” when both tried to leave the South Bay Mall that evening, according to Boston 25.
“Today is not the day to try me!” Rollins reportedly told rival motorist Katie Lawson, who filed a citizen complaint with the Boston Police Department.
A timetable for Lelling’s successor election is not clear, but those familiar with the process believe it will accelerate during the Trump-Biden transition.