Carmen Ortiz has been confirmed as the U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, becoming the first Hispanic and the first woman to hold the top federal prosecutor's job in the state.
Ortiz, an assistant U.S. attorney who prosecutes white-collar crime, was nominated by President Obama in September and confirmed by the U.S. Senate late Thursday. She succeeds Michael Sullivan, a Republican who was appointed by President Bush in 2001 and left the job earlier this year.
Ortiz told The Associated Press in an interview in May that her priorities as U.S. attorney would include terrorism cases, financial crimes, public corruption cases and gang violence.
"I am excited about the challenges that lie ahead and committed to fulfilling the trust reflected in my appointment," Ortiz said in a statement released Friday.
Ortiz, whose parents are from Puerto Rico, is the oldest of five children and grew up in the Spanish Harlem neighborhood of New York City. She attended Adelphi University and received her law degree from George Washington University Law School in 1981.
For the past 12 years, she has worked as an assistant U.S. attorney, mostly recently specializing in prosecuting economic crimes, including, embezzlement, tax evasion, investment fraud and telemarketing schemes.
Earlier in her career, she worked as a state prosecutor in Middlesex County and as a senior trial attorney at a private law firm.
In 1992, Ortiz was a member of the "October Surprise" team for the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, which investigated allegations that the Reagan/Bush campaign of 1980 sought to delay the release of the hostages in Iran to undermine President Carter's re-election bid.
She also helped investigate allegations of sexual harassment made by a Boston Herald sports writer against the New England Patriots in 1990.
From 1989-91, she worked on the Harvard/Guatemala Criminal Justice Project, which included collaborating with the judiciary of Guatemala and other legal professionals on criminal justice reforms in that country.
Ortiz, who was recommended for the job in May by the late U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry, said she and Kennedy spoke about public service.
"I told Sen. Kennedy that if confirmed, I would make him proud - and I intend to honor his legacy," she said Friday.
Ortiz's husband, attorney Michael Morisi, died in 2000 after a long battle with cancer. Since then, Ortiz has raised their two daughters, now 17 and 22, by herself.
"It's been a challenge, but a good one," she said in the May interview. "I think I have been able to illustrate to them that you can have it all, and despite tragedies in life, you still can have a very fulfilling and happy life."
This program aired on November 6, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.