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DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Represents the Victims

Manchester, Connecticut

On November 11, Assistant State’s Attorney Kathleen McNamara was the emcee at a dinner marking the 100th anniversary of the East Hartford Police Department. It was a special recognition for the AFSCME Local 1437 member whose grandfather, father, and husband were members of the department. McNamara was also on the force for 12 years.

"My father was a police officer, so I thought that was just the normal course of events.” But the career path McNamara followed after joining the force was not the normal course of events.

"I would see lawyers come in and get their clients out of lockup, and I’d say to myself, ‘I could do that better than they do.’” or four years, she “worked midnights and went to law school evenings.” And when she passed the bar, McNamara applied for a job in the state’s attorney’s office.

"I’m on the other side of it now,” she said. “I work very closely with the police department, and I do law enforcement training. I can see some of the mistakes the police can make. I try to refine it so the cases get even better.

"We represent victims a lot. A person gets beat up—it’s our job to make sure the proper person gets prosecuted,” she said. “We don’t make the big bucks like the defense attorneys do, but we can sleep at night.

"When we try a case, it’s usually the victim against the defendant. You’re the victim’s lawyer. We see a lot of things here that people don’t want to know about—child abuse, neglect and beating of children. Somehow we try to keep our sanity.”

McNamara is the Local 1437 representative at her workplace. She is happy about having a union. “I don’t have to worry about labor issues; I can focus on criminal issues,” she said. “I don’t have to worry about billable hours or an individual contract with the state. I can just do my job.”

Much of her job involves working with “first-time offenders. So we try to scare them—show them how bad it’s going to be for them.”

Sometimes McNamara sets up alternatives to jail time—particularly for first-time offenders. One such alternative reinforced her understanding of what it means to be the “victim’s lawyer.”

"A young offender broke the pair of bronze dancing bears in the park,” she said. When he was brought before her, McNamara ordered him to replace the statues if he wanted to avoid prison. “He took out a loan, and he’s responsible to pay it himself. I was surprised how much getting those bears back meant to the community.”

Responses like that really energize McNamara and make the long hours more meaningful. “We’re on a 35-hour workweek, but we work a lot of extra hours preparing the cases,” she said. “My goal is to do the best job I can do. I want to be prepared. All the prosecutors prepare extremely well.”

McNamara is proud of the job she does. And when she stood at the dais on November 11, she knew it was not only she who was being honored. By her accomplishments and efforts she was continuing the family tradition. Her father and grandfather were being recognized again through her.

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