PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — After a four-year confirmation process, the U.S. Senate on Wednesday evening confirmed Public Defender Mary McElroy as the state’s new federal judge.
The vote marks a long-sought victory for Democratic U.S. Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, who initially got McElroy nominated by President Obama but then managed to convince President Trump to renominate her for the judgeship rather than put forward a Republican pick. (They also got Trump to support their choice for U.S. attorney, Aaron Weisman.)
The GOP-controlled Senate approved McElroy on a voice vote, dispensing with the need for a roll call.
“Mary McElroy is extremely well-qualified, and today’s big bipartisan vote demonstrates that fact,” Reed said in a statement. “It is great news that Rhode Islanders will now have a fully staffed court so cases can be heard more efficiently and justice isn’t delayed.”
“I know this was a long process, but this is a lifetime appointment, so it is important to get it right,” he added.
McElroy will fill the vacancy created in 2015 by the retirement of Judge Mary Lisi. Rhode Island’s two active federal judges, Chief Judge William Smith and District Judge Jack McConnell, have been covering the court calendar in Providence since Lisi stepped down.
(McElroy also has a direct connection to McConnell, her soon-to-be colleague: she clerked for McConnell’s father-in-law, the late R.I. Supreme Court Justice Donald Shea, early in her career.)
“I’m confident she will serve the people of Rhode Island with distinction on the bench, and pleased at the happiness of her new colleagues at her arrival,” Whitehouse said.
McElroy, who lives in East Greenwich, was appointed public defender by then-Gov. Lincoln Chafee in 2012 after many years in both the state and federal public defenders’ offices. She graduated from Suffolk University School of Law and Providence College. Her father, Ed McElroy, was a longtime local labor leader who led the national American Federation of Teachers from 2004 to 2008.
McElroy’s swearing-in date has not been set.
Ted Nesi (email@example.com) is WPRI 12’s politics and business editor and a Target 12 investigative reporter. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook