SPRINGFIELD – U.S. Assistant Attorney Deepika Bains Shukla is one of four shortlisted candidates to replace outgoing Massachusetts U.S. attorney Andrew Lelling.
Shukla, 39, has been the head of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Springfield since 2019. After 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 the 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 that they had recently received calls from members of an advisory panel meeting on veterinary candidates before moving on to the next step in the process, which was overseen 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 the idea of change in the way it goes How things have been done in the past. I don’t expect her to be a flaming radical if selected, but I think she’s open to listening to the defense bar and others to see things differently. “
Springfield attorney John Pucci also declined to be interviewed for the 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. Members of the Western Massachusetts Bar Association have historically 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 the prosecution of former Lee Police Chief Joseph Buffis for corruption related to a children’s charitable toy fund associated with the police. “I thought she balanced the ticket well.”
Shukla is from Massachusetts and graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law in 2007. Previously, she was a tenant in Bronx, New York, then a plaintiff civil rights attorney, and at the Connecticut Fair Housing Center in Hartford, Connecticut. Shukla also worked as a litigator at Davis Polk, a large New York City firm.
While in Springfield, Shukla has followed police corruption, drug and gun 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 lawyer, 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 they 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 election successor is not clear, but those familiar with the process believe it will accelerate during the Trump-Biden transition.