Governor Gina Raimondo has nominated Senator Erin Lynch-Prata to fill one of two vacancies on the R.I Supreme Court. Lynch-Prata’s nomination pushes back against the recommendation of the Ethics Commission’s staff, who determined that such an appointment would violate the revolving door prohibition. The revolving door prohibition bars sitting legislators from being selected for judgeships. It was established a generation ago, alongside the judicial-merit selection process, when two consecutive Rhode Island Supreme Court Chief Justices, themselves former legislators, resigned in disgrace.
Of Lynch-Prata’s nomination, Chairwoman Sue Cienki commented: “This is a sad day in Rhode Island, when it comes to ethics and the judicial merit selection process. Senator Erin Lynch-Prata and her allies have destroyed the revolving door prohibition. Not only that, but they have made a mockery of the judicial merit selection process. A sitting judge, Laureen D'Ambra, probably wasn’t interviewed by Governor Raimondo. (Judge D’Ambra’s name first appeared on the list to be interviewed for the Supreme Court vacancy last night.) From the beginning, it was clear that Lynch was a cinch for the judgeship, probably due to some secret State House deal. The corrupt judicial selection politics that Rhode Islanders thought had ended a generation ago is clearly back for all to see.”
Cienki continued: “Now, there will be a rush to confirm Senator Lynch-Prata. Perhaps Senator Lynch-Prata and her allies are worried that once she loses her post as Chairwoman of Senate Judiciary in January, her nomination may encounter more opposition. Although the General Assembly has refused to do almost anything during the pandemic, the General Assembly will probably quickly meet and vote to give their colleague a life-time job with a starting salary of $189,424. Meanwhile the General Assembly will continue do little or nothing for small businesses, as they struggle to survive during the pandemic. What a sad day: what a state we live in.”