Naturally, growing up in Marion and being family friends with the neighborhood veterinarian, one young Sippican School girl named Heather Smith once upon a time thought she wanted to be a veterinarian, too.
Over the years she studied hard, and in 1988 Heather graduated from Old Rochester Regional High School as valedictorian of her class. She went on to Boston College to complete her undergrad when her trajectory took an entirely different direction away from the veterinarian life and toward the District Court bench where she sits today as the presiding judge.
“In college, I had the opportunity to sit in on a criminal law class,” said Heather, now married with three children and known as Heather Bradley. “It gave me an opportunity to go to court for a semester and, after watching every day what the presiding judge did, I thought, what a great job. I’d like to do that. I kept hoping that someday I would do that.”
Bradley continued on to Boston College School of Law and in 1995, she went on to become a prosecuting attorney, working in the district attorney’s office in the counties of Middlesex and Plymouth.
“I really, really loved, just loved, going into court every chance that I got,” said Bradley. She continued as a prosecutor until 2011 when she was appointed as a judge, sitting on the bench at a number of different District Courts and then sitting regularly at the Hingham District Court with the First Justice. Hingham became her court, ending that period of having to travel around the Commonwealth court to court. Bradley said she appreciated the stability.
The Hingham District Court, which serves the towns of Hingham, Hull, Scituate, Hanover, Rockland, and Norwell, has a community court feel that she likes, she said.
Back in November, just a few months shy of five years with the Hingham District Court, Bradley was appointed First Justice upon the retirement of the previous one. She was just officially sworn-in on December 18 before family and friends, many of whom still live in Marion.
“It’s a huge honor being appointed First Justice,” Bradley said. “It’s something that is a recognition by the people you work with every day … that you have the skills necessary to do it. I know that a lot of people reached out to the Chief Justice of the District Court and spoke on my behalf and wanted me to get the appointment.”
Bradley said that what she wants most is to make a difference in her community, and she specifically cited the growing opiate crisis as a major priority for her and her court.
“I want to make an impact in a positive way by making sure that we do run the court efficiently, treat everyone with respect, and take the time to explain the process.” She said most people whose first experience with the court is one of nervousness, fright, and they do not know what to expect.
“There aren’t many times in this job when you have the opportunity to put a positive light on what you do and in the court system,” said Bradley. “So I appreciate … being somebody growing up in a small town and having the chance to do something as wonderful as this job.”
By Jean Perry