Even before she ascended to the federal bench, Judge Patti B. Saris possessed the spirit of a leader and change-maker. From a young age her parents instilled in her the confidence that she could achieve anything she set her mind to, regardless of her gender. In a time when women’s career prospects were severely limited, Judge Saris was able to defy the status quo through her professional success. After graduating from law school, she pursued jobs as staff counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee and an assistant U.S. attorney. In both positions, she gained special insight to the laws she would one day interpret and apply on the bench. Her tenure as a judge began when she applied to be a magistrate judge in 1986 at the prompting of the Women’s Bar Association. Her judicial career progressed through both the Massachusetts Superior Court and the District Court, eventually leading her to serve a term as Chief U.S. District Judge in succession of Hon. Mark L. Wolf. Judge Saris greatly attributes her accomplishments to her early educational experiences, beginning with her time at the Girls Latin School. While she can still recall many harrowing nights spent doing homework past eleven, she is grateful for the empowering school environment that shaped her work ethic and prepared her for Harvard University. From civil rights to women’s liberation, her time at Harvard provided a front row seat to many of the most pivotal moments and movements in recent American history. Not only did what she witnessed impact her personally, but it also shaped her judicial philosophy. Today, Judge Saris makes it a priority to consider the totality of circumstances when deciding the fate of a defendant through sentencing. She channeled this into her work on the sentencing committee, where she aimed to create more equitable standards to reduce the epidemic of mass incarceration. She recognizes that factors such as addiction, racism, and abuse may all contribute to someone being charged and convicted. However she does not shy away from issuing punishment to those who have committed serious wrongdoing and require reform. With this holistic approach, she strives to extend compassion to and preserve the humanity of those whom the system has failed while effectively enforcing the law. As an instructor at Harvard Law School and Ward Fellowship sponsor, Judge Saris remains committed to guiding and uplifting the next generation of dedicated jurists to follow in her footsteps.
U.S. District Judge Patti Saris