Wu endorses public defender running in SJC clerk’s race - The Boston Globe (2024)

Wu, in her endorsem*nt, hailed Cartwright for her legal experience and work to ensure families have access to justice. The mayor said Cartwright “knows the ins and outs of the legal system and its impact” on the community.


“There is no more qualified candidate to undertake this very important responsibility of upholding the law fairly and impartially for all community members,” Wu said in a statement.

Cartwright, 62, serves as managing director of the Public Defender Division’s Central Region, where she oversees offices in Suffolk and Norfolk counties and about 75 staff members, including lawyers and social workers, according to her campaign.

Wu’s endorsem*nt signified a shared vision for a fair and efficient judicial system, Cartwright said in an interview.

“It means a lot to share our commitment to ensure that our court, our legal system is fair, just, and equitable, and accessible to everyone,” Cartwright said. “That’s what I’ve built my career on. So I believe it wholeheartedly, and I know that the mayor shares in that vision as well.”

Related: City Councilor Erin Murphy to run for Suffolk County Supreme Judicial Court clerkship

The endorsem*nt was a snub of sorts for Murphy, a longtime critic of the mayor who has sparred with her on issues ranging from providing students with free museum tickets to a proposed increase in taxes for commercial property owners in the city.

In early March, Murphy announced her campaign to succeed the current clerk, Maura Doyle, who has served in the role since 1996. Doyle has announced she wouldn’t seek another six-year term.


Murphy, who is not an attorney, has pledged she would “uphold the integrity and efficiency of the judicial process.”

The clerk’s position is elected by Suffolk County voters in Boston, Chelsea, Revere, and Winthrop, but has responsibilities that span the entire state through the Supreme Judicial Court.

That work includes managing the case load of individual justices and appeals from lower courts, state boards, and agencies. The clerk also plays a role in the admission of lawyers to the state bar and in attorney discipline, according to the court.

Doyle, who is also an attorney, earned about $190,000 in 2023, according to the state’s public payroll database.

Cartwright and Murphy, both Democrats, will appear on Sept. 3 state primary ballots in all four communities. The winner will appear on the November general election ballot; no Republican candidate has emerged in the race.

Three summer months away from the primary election, the clerk’s race doesn’t appear to have caught fire with voters. Murphy has raised about $50,000 since she announced her campaign for clerk in March, while Cartwright, who is running her first campaign, has collected about $37,000 over the same period, according to state campaign finance data.

Cartwright has already signaled ties with Wu: her campaign manager, Maggie Van Scoy, served in the city’s Office of Neighborhood Services and was Wu’s liaison to Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Fenway-Kenmore, and Mission Hill.


Cartwright has previously received the endorsem*nts of Attorney General Andrea Campbell and state senators William Brownsberger, Liz Miranda, and Lydia Edwards; Edwards also serves as a co-chair of Cartwright’s campaign committee. Cartwright was endorsed by the United Auto Workers Region 9A.

Murphy has announced endorsem*nts including US Representative Stephen Lynch, state Senator Nick Collins, and City Council colleague Ed Flynn, as well as numerous police, firefighter, and labor unions.

Cartwright, when asked if she felt voters were paying attention to the race — and by extension, Wu’s endorsem*nt — in early June, said she wants to bring more visibility to the clerk’s position.

“A lot of people have been telling me that they hadn’t necessarily paid attention, and I think it’s probably because Maura Doyle has done such a fantastic job,” Cartwright said. “But I am hoping to bring a lot of attention to this role. ... I’m hoping that I can really get the message out [about] how important this race is, and how it matters to everybody.”

If elected, Cartwright said a priority would be making the court more accessible, including a greater availability of court interpreters and improved access for people with disabilities. Another goal would be to hold more listening sessions with a broad range of people to hear what they want from the courts, she said.

Cartwright lives in Hyde Park with her mother and teenage son. A self-described “Army brat,” Cartwright grew up moving around frequently because of her father’s military service; by the time she was 11, Cartwright reckoned she had lived in about a half-dozen places.


She earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees in Michigan, and earned her law degree from Boston College Law School in 1992. While in law school, she represented clients in the Boston Municipal Court through BC Law’s Defenders Clinic, and began her legal career as a public defender with the Committee for Public Counsel Services.

After four years as an attorney in the organization’s Roxbury Defenders’ Office, Cartwright became assistant corporation counsel for the city of Boston under then-mayor Thomas M. Menino for about a year. She entered private practice for about a dozen years, serving as a court-appointed lawyer, then returned to the Committee for Public Counsel Services to lead the Roxbury office, and was later promoted to her current role.

Most of her professional life has been focused on being a public defender, but Cartwright didn’t enter law school with that as her goal. One summer, she interned for US Magistrate Judge Joyce London Alexander, and she encountered criminal defendants with their court-appointed attorneys.

Seeing those lawyers advocate for their clients resonated with Cartwright: “It made law come alive,” she said.

“I wanted to help people who were in that position, people who seem very dejected, and despondent, and in need of really good legal services,” Cartwright said.

Niki Griswold of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com.

Wu endorses public defender running in SJC clerk’s race - The Boston Globe (2024)
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