SPRINGFIELD — As a kid growing up in the Springfield’s North End, Hector Zavala liked to carry a brief case and pretend to be a lawyer.
“I was always in awe of the law – and dreamed of being an attorney,” Zavala said during a ceremony Friday in Springfield District Court attended by judges, elected and court officials and Zavala’s many friends.
“Other kids played cops and robbers; I wanted to play courtroom,” he said.
By the end of the ceremony, Zavala – a former assistant district attorney, lawyer for the district court’s legal service center and chairman of the city’s Community Policing Hearing Board – had achieved another milestone in his real-life legal career.
He was sworn in as the first Hispanic assistant clerk-magistrate in Springfield District Court, the busiest district court in the state.
The appointment comes as the Massachusetts Trial Court moves to make courts more fair and accessible by reflecting the racial, gender and ethnic diversity of communities they serve.
In his new post, Zavala will bring “advocacy, empathy – and style,” said Judge William Boyle, the district court’s presiding judge, who said the appointment marks the dawning of “Zavala time” in the courthouse.
He congratulated “the kid from the North End” before adding, in Spanish, “It’s a great day for Puerto Ricans.”
Judge Charles W. Groce III, one of Zavala’s professors at the Western New England University School of Law, offered a quick overview of his former student’s resume.
“He put himself through college and law school. He’s been a social worker, a victim-witness advocate, an attorney, an assistant district attorney,” Groce said, citing some of the positions Zavala has held since law school.
“How old is he?” the judge asked, drawing laughter from the audience. “Nobody really knows.” (For the record, Zavala is 34.)
The judge also praised Zavala’s parents, who attended the ceremony along with his grandmother, nephew and other relatives.
“He’s had the benefit and…