By Taylor Viles – 1851 Staff
United States Attorney Andrew Lelling joined Assistant Professor of Political Science Paul DeBole’s POLS101: American Government class on Friday, Nov. 22 to discuss his occupation and political factors he faces.
“The level of political polarization in our society has caused more and more people to grow impatient with the rule of law,” said Lelling, encouraging everyone present to vote if they want to change laws.
He brought focus to what his role entails because of the common misinterpretation. “I am entrusted with enforcing federal law in Massachusetts,” said Lelling, “I decide where the line is.” He oversees an office of 125 prosecutors.
Since 2009, Professor DeBole has been ‘putting a face’ to federal law enforcement by having someone with a high level of respect speak with his class. “My first semester here, I figured out that… some of our kids were way too bright and way too talented to be sitting on the [Mass] Pike looking for someone doing 72 in a 65,” said DeBole. The people who have spoken often enjoy, “passing the torch to the next generation of law en- forcement,” said Debole.
This U.S. Attorney relates. “I like talking to college students,” said Lelling. “What I find is with that stage of education, you can still impact people’s views.”
Lelling began his career in 2001. He was hired to assist the Civil Rights division of the Justice Department. He was immediately thrown into high-stress environments, dealing with the repercussions of the events of 9/11.
After years in that profession, he decided it was time for a change and began the pro- cess of becoming a U.S. Attorney. Multiple interviews were conducted, including one with sitting Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Lelling stressed the importance that U.S. attorneys are not elected but appointed. “You can’t decide what cases you bring based on whether you’re going to get backlash,” said Lelling. “Someone is going to hate you no matter what you do.” He said if elected, U.S. attorney’s decision-making could be swayed to please voters.
An issue frequenting Lelling’s door- step is Massachusetts’s opioid epidemic. As a U.S. Attorney, he’s tasked with deciding which cases his office should take on versus which cases are small enough to return to the state. As marijuana is still federally illegal, he is supposed to crack down on the drug, but, “2,000 people a year in Massachusetts don’t die from overdosing on pot, they die from overdosing on opioids,” said Lelling.
After his tenure as U.S. Attorney is up, which could be as soon as Jan. 2021, Lelling says he’ll likely leave public service and transition back to a law firm. He explained once one holds his position, they can’t go back to just a state prosecutor.
Nonetheless, he hopes to leave his mark. “One of the things you have to do is do the job without fear. That’s what I want to leave the office with,” said Lelling, “I want the prosecutors to think to themselves, ‘my job is to do what’s right despite what’s in the public interest and [I must] do that despite the fact that it will piss somebody off.’ I want my office to have the right feel and the right attitude toward what it does.”