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Patrick names Orenstein interim DA

June 12, 2014 |

James Orenstein was introduced as the interim district attorney for Hampden County by Gov. Deval Patrick on June 9.
Reminder Publications photo by G. Michael Dobbs

By G. Michael Dobbs

SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Deval Patrick named James Orenstein as the interim district attorney for Hampden County in a brief swearing-in at the state office building in Springfield on June 9.

The administering of the oath of office to Orenstein was about 10 minutes after Mark Mastroianni took his oath of office as a federal judge. A public ceremony to note the beginning of Mastroianni’s time on the bench will be announced.

Mastroianni said the two events were scheduled so closely as to make sure there would be no gap in having a district attorney.

Orenstein has worked in the district attorney’s office for almost 25 years. He had been in charge of special projects such as pre-trial reviews of homicide cases, but he also served as the first assistant district attorney.

He is a Longmeadow resident and received his Juris Doctorate from Western New England School of Law. He will be the district attorney for the next seven months and will be succeeded by the winner of this year’s election in November.

Orenstein said he was “overwhelmed” by the appointment that he described as “incredibly exciting.” He pledged to make sure the office runs efficiently for the next seven months.

Speaking about the violence recently seen in Springfield and Holyoke, Orenstein said, “There has been an alarming spate of gun violence in Springfield and Holyoke. The causes of that violence are a complex issue that can’t be solved in seven months.”

He noted the district attorney is not able to solve that problem alone and looks forward to working with the police departments of both Springfield and Holyoke.

“There are too many illegal guns carried by too many people,” he added.

Orenstein said that he had not been able to speak with Mastroianni in the past several days, which he called a “whirlwind,” and that he will not hesitate to call the new federal judge for advice.

“He will be my number one on the speed dial,” he said.

Mastroianni made a donation of forfeiture funds to a youth boxing program sponsored by the YMCA of Greater Springfield as well as to a pilot program operated by Square One as one of the last official acts as district attorney on June 5.

Mastroianni awarded the boxing program $10,000 and a YMCA summer camp program an additional $10,000. The Square One program, which will allow incarcerated mothers to stay in touch with their children, also received $10,000.

Speaking of his appointment to the federal bench, Mastroianni said he is “absolutely overwhelmed at this point.”

He explained, “It is in many ways bittersweet because I love what I do. I very much enjoy working with the people who I work with. I have a great staff at the District Attorney’s Office and that staff works extremely hard. Most of the time they do not get the recognition they deserve but they do fantastic things.”

While he said he would miss working with the community, he is “enormously excited about the challenges and opportunities in front of me.” 

Attorney Mary McNally, the district attorney’s chief financial officer (CFO), recently left to become the executive director of the Springfield Parking Authority, but Mastroianni said before she departed she set the budget “in very good shape.” Mastroianni added he has named an acting CFO and an acting director of operation who worked very closely with McNally.

When asked if he had used the position of district attorney as a “stepping stone,” Mastroianni said, “When I took office there was no positions open. I let pass numerous state court judgeships I could have applied for and didn’t. I also let pass a whole set of other positions that I could have done. As you know the federal judge position comes up once in my career and when I took over [being district attorney] that was certainly expected that position was going to be filled by another person, a very, very qualified person. There was no way for me to ever anticipate that position could have been open again.”

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