PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Justice Melissa Long was sworn in as an associate justice to the Rhode Island Supreme Court Monday, making history as the court’s first Black justice and shifting women into the majority.

Long was nominated by former Gov. Gina Raimondo and confirmed by the the General Assembly in December.

“We judges play a critical role in our constitutional democracy,” Long said. “We believe in justice and preserving the rule of law, and that belief has tangible benefits. We know that our decisions have enormous impacts on individual lives and can be transformative.”

The seat became vacant following Judge Francis Flaherty’s retirement.

“I thank Justice Frank Flaherty, whose seat I now occupy, for the example he set for a life
dedicated to public service and to the administration of justice,” Long said.

The swearing-in ceremony took place Monday, on what would have been Long’s late mother’s 77th birthday.

“She and my father served this country honorably, and their faith in America’s institutions including its judicial system was unshakeable,” Long said.

In her speech, Long gave thanks to a number of judges she called mentors, as well as Raimondo, the General Assembly and special gratitude to the Black and Latino caucus.

“For their impassioned speeches recognizing the importance of diversity in the Rhode Island courts,” she said.

Long specifically singled out R.I. Sen. Harold Metts, who called Long’s nomination to the Supreme Court, “the first of many steps to right our wrongs.”

“We can’t change the past, but today we made amends for the things that took place in the past so that we can truly have justice and equality that’s the foundation of this nation,” Metts said.

The R.I. House of Representatives Republican Caucus responded to Long being sworn in, saying in part, “Justice Long, who brings years of varied legal experience, will bring a fresh and thoughtful perspective to the court and uphold our constitution and laws. “