Judge Richard Stearns was nominated to a seat on the United States District Court for Massachusetts by President William J. Clinton. Prior to becoming a U.S. District Judge in 1994, he served as an Associate Justice of the Superior Court of Massachusetts, as First Assistant United States Attorney and as Chief of the Criminal Division of the federal prosecutor’s office in Massachusetts, and before that, as a Massachusetts Assistant District Attorney. Judge Stearns has served as a member of the U.S. Judicial Conference Committee on Judicial Security, the Federal-State Jurisdiction Committee, the Space and Facilities Committee, the Mass Torts Working Group, and the First Circuit Judicial Council. He presently sits on the Judicial Conference Committee on International Judicial Relations. He also serves as a Multi-District Litigation Panel Transferee Judge in the District of Massachusetts and has served by designation on the First, Third, Ninth, and Federal Circuit Courts of Appeals.
Judge Stearns is the recipient of a B.A. from Stanford University, an M. Litt. from Oxford University (which he attended as a Rhodes Scholar), and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He has also received Honorary Doctor of Law degrees from Suffolk Law School and the University of Massachusetts School of Law. He is a life member of Phi Beta Kappa.
Apart from his judicial duties, Judge Stearns serves as a rule of law advisor to the Defense Threat Reduction Agency of the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of State, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. He lectures and teaches frequently on issues involving the rule of law, nuclear counter-proliferation, counter-terrorism, intellectual property, judicial security, and judicial reform in the United States, the United Kingdom, Southern and Eastern Europe, Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, Egypt, Morocco, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Djibouti, and the People’s Republic of China. He has represented the United States at a number of international conferences and meetings, including the Conference of European Constitutional Courts in Sofia, Bulgaria in 2011, the celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the Romanian Constitutional Court in Bucharest in 2017, the celebration of the founding of the Colombian Council of State in Bogota in 2017, the International Conference on Justice in Marrakech in 2018, and the United Nations Summit on Judicial Transparency in Istanbul, also in 2018. Judge Stearns is a former member and currently Special Counselor of the American Bar Association’s Central European and Eurasian Law Initiative Council. He has served for a number of years as a Trustee of Vincent Memorial (Massachusetts General) Hospital in Boston, where he Co-Chairs the Committee on Science and Research for the Vincent Center for Reproductive Biology. He also oversees the judicial consent decree implementing the 35-year plan for the environmental cleanup of the Boston Harbor, the Charles River, and the adjacent watersheds.
Judge Stearns is the author of a widely used treatise, Massachusetts Criminal Law: A Prosecutor’s Guide (Dedham, MA: 39th ed. 2019), which can also be found at massprosecutorsguide.com.