Rhode Island’s two U.S. Senators, Democrats Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, have nominated Rhode Island’s top public defender, Mary McElroy, to the U.S. District Court vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Mary Lisi.
McElroy, 49, is the first woman to serve as the state’s top public defender. She has wide experience in both Rhode Island state courts and in federal court, where she served as assistant public federal defender between 2006 and 2012. A graduate of Providence College and Suffolk University Law School, McElroy was a clerk for former RI State Supreme Court Justice Donald Shea. (Shea is the father-in-law of U.S. District Court Judge Jack McConnell).
McElroy is the daughter of a legendary Rhode Island labor leader, Edward McElroy, former head of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO and president of the American Federation of Teachers, one of the nation’s largest AFL-CIO unions. He was a longtime power in both the Rhode Island and national Democratic Party.
A Warwick native, McElroy was appointed the state's top public defender in 2012 by then-Gov. Lincoln Chafee, a former Warwick mayor.
Her nomination now goes to President Barack Obama, who must send her nod to the U.S. Senate. The position requires Senate confirmation.
``Mary McElroy is highly qualified and would serve on the federal bench with distinction,’’ Reed and Whitehouse said in a statement. Judge Lisi is scheduled to retire from active service and assume what is known in the federal courts as `senior status’ on Oct 1.
It is tradition that U.S. senators recommend federal judges, who then undergo extensive background checks and FBI scrutiny before being subject to Senate confirmation. Reed is the state’s senior senator and Whitehouse is a member of the Judiciary Committee, which vets federal judicial candidates.