Chair of the United States Sentencing Commission: Who Is Patti Saris?
Monday, October 17, 2011
A federal judge for the past eighteen years, Patti B. Saris has chaired the United States Sentencing Commission since January 2011. Created in 1984 to deal with disparities in sentencing in different states, the Commission develops sentencing guidelines for U.S. Federal Courts. President Obama nominated Saris as Commissioner and Chair of the Commission in April 2010. She was confirmed by the Senate on December 22, 2010, for a six-year term expiring October 31, 2015, and sworn in by Justice Elena Kagan on February 16, 2011.
Born July 20, 1951, in Boston, Saris grew up in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, attended public schools, and earned a B.A. from Radcliffe College in 1973 and a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1976. At Harvard, Saris wrote twenty-nine articles for the student newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, including a spirited defense of Government Professor Doris Kearns, whose tenure was then in question.
Upon graduation, Saris served as a judicial clerk for Judge Robert Braucher of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court from 1976 to 1977. She practiced law with the Boston firm of Foley, Hoag & Eliot from 1977 to 1979, served as Staff counsel to the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary from 1979 to 1981, when Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) was its chairman, and then returned to private practice with the firm of Berman, Dittmar & Engel, from 1981 to 1982.
Saris returned to public service as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts from 1982 to 1986, and was Chief of the Civil Division from 1984 to 1986. She began her judicial career in 1986, when she was appointed to a three-year term as a U.S. Magistrate Judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. She moved to state court in 1989 when she became a trial judge in Massachusetts Superior Court. On the recommendation of her former boss Senator Ted Kennedy, and that of Senator John Kerry (D-Massachusetts), in 1993 President Bill Clinton nominated Saris to be a federal district judge for the District of Massachusetts, the Senate confirmed the nomination, and Saris received her commission in November 1993.
She and her husband, Arthur Segel, a Harvard Business School professor of real estate management, have four children: Marisa, Edward, Celia, and Michael. A lifelong Democrat, Saris has made no political contributions in her own name; however her husband, who is also the founder and owner of TA Associates Realty, contributed more than $300,000 to Democratic candidates, organizations, and causes from 1990 to 2011.
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