From Inmate to Lawyer—to Judge? Former Prisoner Might Be Appointed to the Massachusetts Bench
My mom forwarded me an article from this weekend’s Parade magazine about a very interesting Massachusetts lawyer—and possible judicial appointee—who, unlike most lawyers and judges, has experience as a prisoner: “If appointed, [Rick] Dyer would likely be the first judge in U.S. history to bring with him not only a record of drug abuse but also a personal understanding of what it’s like to be homeless, on welfare, and behind bars.” An article from the Mass Lawyers Weekly, copied at the Massachusetts Criminal and Juvenile Defense Blog, has more information about Dyer’s background:
With multiple felony convictions on his record, Dyer made his living back in the day as a common thief. His criminal record includes entries in Brighton, Framingham, Brookline, Natick, Orleans, Marlborough, Waltham, Roxbury and Boston Municipal Court for operating under the influence, breaking and entering, use of a car without authority, disorderly conduct, driving without a license and larceny of motor vehicles. “I could start almost any car there was,” he recalls. “I made attempt after attempt to try to get straightened out, and when I couldn’t do it, I always went back to what I knew best, which was getting high, stealing cars and selling them.” …
With financial assistance from the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Services, Dyer attended Boston State College, graduating with honors in 1978. By then, he was clean and had begun volunteering at the Northeastern University School of Law Prisoners’ Rights Project, working alongside the likes of Nancy Gertner (now a federal judge), Jonathan Shapiro, Harvey A. Silverglate and John G. Flym. Those people, Dyer says, encouraged him to take the next step and apply to law school. After receiving a round of rejections the first year, Dyer applied again and was admitted to Northeastern. (Officials at other law schools, such as the University of Pennsylvania, told him they could not accept him out of concern that he would sue if he were not admitted to the bar.) He graduated in 1983, only to come up against an unforgiving Board of Bar Overseers, certain members of which were concerned that his criminal record would make him unfit to practice. But with the help of Judge [Chick] Artesani … and others he had met along the way, Dyer applied for and received a governor’s pardon [from Michael Dukakis] on July 6, 1983.
In the almost 30 years since he was admitted to the bar, Dyer has remained clean and built a practice focusing on criminal defense, including juvenile defense.