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Ruth O’Meara-Costello

Picture of Ruth O’Meara-Costello

Ruth O’Meara-Costello represents clients in criminal defense, Title IX, and employment law matters. Ruth is a committed and thoughtful advocate for her clients and has achieved significant victories both in and out of court.

Title IX and Campus Discipline

Ruth’s commitment to individual rights and to due process inform her work with university students and faculty facing disciplinary action at their universities. Her experience handling criminal sexual assault cases complements her work representing accused students, and allows her to provide comprehensive legal representation to the students and faculty members she represents. Ruth has represented more than sixty clients accused of sexual misconduct (sexual harassment or assault) at colleges and universities in Massachusetts and nationwide. She has won many cases by bringing a well-developed strategy to each case and helping her clients to marshal evidence and arguments to convince campus hearing boards or investigators of their innocence. Ruth also assists students and faculty accused of other university disciplinary violations, including plagiarism and academic dishonesty.

Ruth represents clients already found responsible for disciplinary violations in internal appeals at their academic institutions and has convinced many colleges to grant her clients new hearings or reduce the penalties against them. Ruth has litigated cases in federal court on behalf of her clients when schools have violated their rights to fair and unbiased disciplinary processes. Because of her background in employment law, Ruth is well situated to represent university faculty and staff in discrimination and sexual misconduct matters.

Ruth is recognized as a thought leader in Title IX law, and frequently writes about legal issues in campus disciplinary proceedings and provides her expertise to the press on these matters.

Criminal Defense

Ruth’s legal expertise and insight have resulted in victories or reduced sanctions for her clients in criminal matters. Ruth’s criminal defense practice encompasses trials and appeals in both state and federal court, and she has represented defendants on a range of charges, including murder, stalking, attempted rape, fraud-related offenses, drug possession and conspiracy, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, indecent assault and battery, harassment, assault and battery of a family member, assault and battery of a police officer, rape of a child, perjury, violation of a restraining order, driving under the influence of alcohol, reckless driving, trespassing, leaving the scene of an accident causing personal injury, unlicensed taxi operation, vandalism, disorderly conduct, armed assault with intent to rob, and breaking and entering. Ruth has tried multiple murder cases, including one which resulted in a hung jury and mistrial for her client.

Ruth has secured favorable dispositions for many clients short of trial or even before charges were brought. Working with clients and their families and friends to craft powerful sentencing presentations, Ruth has persuaded many judges to impose the sentence her client requested. She has successfully prevented the issuance of a complaint in numerous show-cause hearings. She also has convinced judges to dismiss charges against her clients, including in cases where they were denied the right to a show-cause hearing or where evidence at a show-cause hearing did not support the charges. She has convinced courts to return her clients to probation, avoiding jail time, following even repeated probation violations.

Ruth is a board member of the Massachusetts Criminal Defense Lawyers Association (MACDL) and a member of the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Lawyers’ Guild’s Mass Defense Committee, for which she volunteers to represent pro bono clients arrested in mass protests and related matters.

Employment Law and Civil Litigation

Ruth represents plaintiffs subjected to discrimination, retaliation, sexual harassment, unequal pay, or other violations of their workplace rights in litigation in the state and federal courts and before the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD). She also frequently works with employees behind the scenes to help them handle difficult situations at work and preserve their employment or achieve settlements without any litigation. In a 2015 trial Ruth and Inga Bernstein convinced a jury that an employer had violated the Massachusetts Equal Pay Act by paying her less than a male employee doing the same job. Ruth has secured significant settlements for numerous clients short of trial.

Ruth has represented many university faculty members in court, before the MCAD, and in campus disciplinary proceedings. In one significant case, Ruth and Inga Bernstein successfully defended a female professor’s gender discrimination claims against the university’s motion for summary judgment. In others, she has convinced the MCAD to dismiss charges of sexual harassment or discrimination against her clients.

Prior Experience

At Harvard Law School, Ruth was a member of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, where she represented clients in domestic relations cases and before the Department of Unemployment Assistance. She was a member of the editorial staff of the Harvard Journal of Law and Gender and a board member of Students Organized for the Prevention of Domestic Violence (STOPDV). Before becoming a lawyer Ruth was a recipient of the Michael C. Rockefeller Fellowship.

Ruth is listed in the 2020 edition of The Best Lawyers in America for education law. In 2017 and 2018, Ruth was selected to the Rising Stars list by Super Lawyers.


J.D., Harvard Law School, 2006
cum laude

A.B., Harvard College, 2002
cum laude

Bar & Court Admissions Commonwealth of Massachusetts
U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts
U.S. Court of Appeals, First Circuit
  • Chief Judge William K. Sessions, U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont, 2006-2007
Ruth O'Meara-Costello & David Rangaviz, SJC Remakes Search-and-Seizure Law to Keep Pace with Modern Realities of Smartphone Technology and Race Relations, Boston Bar Journal (May 11, 2017).

Ruth O'Meara-Costello, Not every Title IX complaint merits investigation, Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly (June 26, 2015).

Ruth O'Meara-Costello, DA Says BC Student Manslaughter Victim Suffered Horrific Abuse. Where Was Title IX?, WGBH News (November 14, 2019).


Professional Affiliations

Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

Board Member (2017-present)

National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

Boston Bar Association

Client Reviews
I hired Mr Duncan to deal with a very sensitive issue that my daughter had. Since the first contact, I had a very good impression of him. He transmitted confidence and appeared to know exactly what to do. I called and emailed him many times, he was polite and comprehensible with the anxiety of a father and appeared to know every step to solve the case. I strongly recommend Mr Duncan. Flavio Lajoia
If you are reading this review, it means either you or a family member is in trouble and needs immediate legal counsel. Please know your search can end right now because Zalkind, Duncan & Bernstein is the law firm to hire. They are honest, responsive, compassionate and have the experience and expertise to bring... Client
I contacted Zalkind Duncan & Bernstein Law in April 2018 to get help for my son on an education-related matter. We worked primarily with Zoraida Fernandez, an Associate, and when needed met with Ruth O'Meara-Costello, a Partner. Zoraida was excellent. The whole process was emotionally exhausting and depressing and Zoraida was the only bright light in all of it... Nancy O.
I worked with Emma Quinn-Judge and Monica Shah. And from my first contact on the phone, on to my first meeting in their office and during the trial, I found them and the firm's entire team to be a group of consummate legal professionals who are very knowledgeable, patient, dedicated, fair, honest and caring... Chantal C.
I am forever grateful to all the staff at this firm, but in particular, Ms. Shah, Mr. Zalkind and Mr. Silverglate. They represented my son who was being sought for extradition to Scotland. The case took years to fight, covering new legal ground, setting precedence. But each one of these legal eagles went above and beyond the duty of office... Suzanne D.