On October 7, 2020, the Judicial Nomination Commission (JNC) selected Superior Court Justice Melissa Long as one of five persons that Governor Gina Raimondo could nominate to the Supreme Court. On December 4, 2020, Justice Melissa Long issued a restraining order to stop workouts at gyms operated by Maxx Fitness Clubzz. In this case, Maxx Fitness challenged the legal authority of Governor Raimondo to issue executive orders closing the gyms. Justice Long ruled against Maxx Fitness and in favor of the Raimondo administration. On December 8, 2020, Governor Raimondo nominated Justice Long to the Supreme Court.
Chairwoman Sue Cienki commented: “We have repeatedly stated that the appointment of Senator Erin Lynch-Prata is unethical because it is a violation of the revolving door prohibition. We now must express our concern related to the failure of Justice Long to recuse herself from the Maxx Fitness case. The major issue in this case was whether Governor Raimondo has the legal authority through her executive orders to close businesses like gyms. Because Justice Long was on the list of finalists and being considered by Governor Raimondo for a Supreme Court appointment, Justice Long should have recused herself from the case. It is hard for anyone to imagine Governor Raimondo nominating any judge to the Supreme Court who had just ruled that her executive orders were invalid.”
Cienki concluded: “We ask Justice Long to explain to the public why she did not recuse herself from the Maxx Fitness case. We hope she acknowledges that she made a mistake when she did not recuse herself from the case in order to avoid the appearance of impropriety.”