In full transparency, the following is a press release from the Massachusetts Governor’s office submitted to SOURCE media. (stock photo).
BOSTON – Last week, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker nominated Elizabeth R. Cerdá as Clerk Magistrate of the Waltham District Court, Alex J. Valderrama as Clerk Magistrate of the Eastern Division of the Housing Court and Diana S. Velez Harris as Associate Justice of the Probate and Family Court.
“With the nominations of Attorney Elizabeth R. Cerdá and Alex J. Valderrama, Waltham District Court and the Eastern Housing Court will both gain well-qualified candidates for the position of Clerk Magistrate,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Furthermore, Attorney Diana S. Velez Harris’s many years of experience will be of great benefit to the Probate and Family Court. We proudly submit these nominations for consideration.”
“Mr. Valderrama’s significant experience at the Eastern Housing Court make him well-suited to serve as its Clerk Magistrate, just as Attorney Cerdá’s time at the Executive Office of the Trial Court and the Administrative Office of the District Court qualify her for Clerk Magistrate of the Waltham District Court,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “Additionally, the Probate Court and Family Court will benefit from Attorney Velez Harris’ years of experience in family law.”
The District Court hears a wide range of criminal, civil, housing, juvenile, mental health, and other types of cases. District Court criminal jurisdiction extends to all felonies punishable by a sentence up to five years, and many other specific felonies with greater potential penalties; all misdemeanors; and all violations of city and town ordinances and by-laws.
The Housing Court Department is a statewide court with jurisdiction over civil and criminal actions, including equitable relief, which involve the health, safety, or welfare of the occupants or owners of residential housing. The Court hears summary process (eviction) cases, small claims cases, and civil actions involving personal injury, property damage, breach of contract, discrimination, and other claims. The Housing Court also hears code enforcement actions and appeals of local zoning board decisions that affect residential housing. The Housing Court has 15 judges authorized to serve its 6 divisions – Central, Eastern, Northeast, Southeast, Western, and Metro South – and conducts sessions in over 20 locations every week.
The Probate and Family Court Department has jurisdiction over family-related and probate matters such as divorce, paternity, child support, custody, parenting time, adoption, termination of parental rights, abuse prevention and wills, estates, trusts, guardianships, conservatorships, and changes of name. The Probate and Family Court has 51 judges, including Chief Justice John D. Casey.
Judicial nominations are subject to the advice and consent of the Governor’s Council. Applicants for judicial openings are reviewed by the Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC) and recommended to the governor. Governor Baker established the JNC in February 2015 pursuant to Executive Order 558, a non-partisan, non-political Commission composed of volunteers from a cross-section of the Commonwealth’s diverse population to screen judicial applications.
Twenty-one members were later appointed to the JNC in April 2015.
Elizabeth R. Cerdá began her legal career in 1998 as a law clerk to the Justices of the Superior Court of Massachusetts before joining LeBoeuf, Lamb, Green and MacRae L.L.P. in 1999 as a corporate associate. Attorney Cerdá moved to the Executive Office of the Trial Court in 2007, where she worked as coordinator of intergovernmental relations until 2014. Attorney Cerdá then served in the Administrative Office of the District Court as special projects coordinator. Attorney Cerdá returned to the Executive Office of the Trial Court in 2019 where she currently works as senior manager for access to justice.
Attorney Cerdá, who is bilingual in Spanish and English, is a certified Spanish interpreter and translator, and prior to her legal career, worked as an English as a second language professor at the Brookline Center for Adult Education. Attorney Cerdá has also served her community as a Commissioner on the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission, as well as a parent volunteer at Armenian Sisters Academy and Boston College High School.
She received her bachelor’s degree from the Universidad de Alcalá de Henares in Madrid in 1994, and her juris doctor from Suffolk University School of Law in 1998. Attorney Cerdá also received certification in business administration for lawyers from Boston University School of Management in 2006.
Alex J. Valderrama has been involved with housing matters in the Commonwealth since he began work as property manager for the Boston Housing Authority in 1995, a position he held until 1999 when he joined the Boston Housing Court as a housing specialist. Valderrama was promoted to assistant chief housing specialist in 2005 and remained with the Boston Housing Court in that capacity until 2018. Since 2018, Valderrama has served as the Eastern Housing Court’s chief housing specialist. Throughout his career, Valderrama has maintained an active participation in the Greater Boston housing community, including serving as a guest and panelist for organizations and institutions such as, Boston University Law School, Gen-Unity at Harvard University, the Chelsea Collaborative, the Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association and the Greater Boston Real Estate Board.
Valderrama received his bachelor’s degree in architectural engineering from Wentworth Institute of Technology in 1988.
Attorney Diana S. Velez Harris has focused her legal career on probate and family law since her first job as an associate at Cooley, Shrair P.C. in 2006, where she concentrated on divorce and family law, civil litigation, personal injury and special education law. Attorney Velez Harris also taught several courses at Holyoke Community College and Elms College that focused on family law, mediation, and special education. In 2011, Attorney Velez Harris became a shareholder at Marien & Hodge, P.C. where she continued to focus on divorce and family law, as well as special education matters. She then brought her experience to Johnson, Sclafani, and Moriarty, where she joined as a shareholder in 2017 and remains presently.
Outside of the law, from 2009 to 2017, Attorney Velez Harris served on the Board of Directors for Gray House, an organization that provides civic, social, and educational support to individuals in the Greater Springfield area.
Attorney Velez Harris received her bachelor’s degree in 1999 from the University of Massachusetts Amherst
, and her juris doctor from New England Law School in 2002.