FacultyFaculty/Author Profile
Hon. Barbara  Dortch-Okara

Hon. Barbara Dortch-Okara

New England Law School
Professor of Law
Boston, MA, USA


After a 28-year career as a trial judge, Barbara Dortch-Okara joined the faculty of New England Law Boston (NELB) in January 2013.  She teaches required courses such as legal ethics, evidence, criminal law and criminal procedure, as well as the elective courses, clinical evidence and trial practice. Her most recent presentation on the subject of legal ethics was as moderator of a symposium last fall at NELB entitled “Behavioral Legal Ethics.” In addition to her teaching and student advising duties, she co-directs the Charles Hamilton Houston Enrichment Program, a program that promotes community-building and appreciation for diversity among NELB students; coaches the NELB mock trial team; and serves on several faculty committees.

In December 2013, Professor Dortch-Okara was appointed by then-Governor Deval Patrick to the position of chairman of the State Ethics Commission. The commission and its staff enforce the conflict of interest and financial disclosure laws pertaining to state, county and municipal government officials and designated high-level employees. She serves in this capacity for a five-year term ending in 2018. Professor Dortch-Okara is also a member of the Committee on Judicial Performance Evaluation, a committee of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court which is tasked with the responsibility of reviewing and revising the performance evaluation process that state trial judges are statutorily required to undergo.

Professor Dortch-Okara has devoted the majority of her professional life to the Massachusetts Trial Court where she was a judge on the Superior Court beginning in 1989 until her retirement in 2012.  The Massachusetts Superior Court is the trial court of unlimited civil and criminal jurisdiction. While retaining her seat on the Superior Court, she also served a five-year term from 1998 to 2003 as Chief Justice for Administration and Management of the Trial Court. During that time, she provided policy direction and operational support to the seven Trial Court Departments through the Administrative Office of the Trial Court. Prior to her elevation to the Superior Court, she was a judge on the Boston Municipal Court for five years.

While presiding on the bench, Judge Dortch-Okara also taught for many years as an adjunct professor of law at Boston University School of Law.  Judge Dortch-Okara received the 2011 Trailblazer Award of the Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association and was honored by the Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys with its 2007 Judicial Excellence Award. She is also a recipient of the 2000 Boston Bar Association Citation of Judicial Excellence, and holds Honorary Doctor of Law degrees from New England School of Law and Southern New England School of Law.

Professor Dortch-Okara received her Bachelor of Arts degree, cum laude, from Brandeis University and her Juris Doctor degree from Boston College Law School.

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