PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals Judge O. Rogeriee Thompson has written to President Biden indicating she plans to take senior status at the end of the year, Target 12 has learned.
Senior status is a form of semi-retirement for federal judges, meaning Thompson will still hear some cases after Dec. 31. But her permanent seat on the appeals court will open up for Biden to choose a successor.
Her decision was confirmed by a court spokesperson in Boston.
“Judge Thompson has been a consistent voice for justice in her legal career,” Rhode Island U.S. District Chief Judge Jack McConnell said in a statement. “She has served as a role model to many, and she has been a personal mentor to me. I thank her for her public service and for her friendship.”
Thompson, 69, was the first Black woman appointed on the 1st Circuit when President Obama nominated her in 2009, as well as the first woman from Rhode Island to be chosen. She had previously broken barriers in 1988, when she was the first Black woman named to the R.I. District Court, and in 1997, when she achieved the same milestone on the Superior Court bench.
“Judge Thompson is brilliant, talented, and fair,” U.S. Sen. Jack Reed said in a statement. “I commend her faithful service on the federal bench, which will continue in a new role. She is an exemplary public servant committed to the noble cause of justice. Judge Thompson blazed a trail and Rhode Island and the nation will benefit from her continued expertise on the bench.”
U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said he had been “very proud” to join Reed in recommending Thompson to Obama at the time of her appointment.
“Judge Thompson is a trailblazer and a giant in Rhode Island’s legal community. She has served Rhode Islanders with distinction over decades on the bench,” Whitehouse said in a statement. “Throughout her tenure there, Judge Thompson has been an exemplary jurist and a voice for fairness and justice. Hers will be big shoes to fill.”
Born and raised in South Carolina, Thompson graduated from Brown University in 1973, going on to receive her law degree from Boston University in 1976. Before becoming a judge, she worked for Rhode Island Legal Services, the city of Providence, and in private practice.
The 1st Circuit Court of Appeals hears appeals of federal cases originating out of Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, and Puerto Rico. The 13 circuit courts nationwide are one level below the U.S. Supreme Court in the federal judiciary.
An open seat on the federal appeals court is rare and will be highly coveted. Reed and Whitehouse are expected to seek applications from individuals interested in succeeding Thompson in order to eventually make a recommendation to the president. (Whitehouse also serves on the Judiciary Committee.)
Thompson’s predecessor and fellow Rhode Islander, Judge Bruce Selya, has been on senior status on the 1st Circuit since 2006.
Ted Nesi (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Target 12 investigative reporter and 12 News politics/business editor. He co-hosts Newsmakers and writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays. Connect with him on Threads, Twitter and Facebook.