In comments filed today with the Ethics Commission, R.I. Republican National Committeeman Steven Frias explains that neither R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(o) or Ethics Commission Regulation 1.52 (36-14-5007) permit legislators to seek or be appointed to the Supreme Court until one year after he or she has left office. The exception to the revolving door prohibition in R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(o)(4) regarding “a state elected official … seeking or being elected for any other constitutional office” does not apply to an appointment to be a Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court because these justices are not elected by the public and since 1994 they are no longer elected by the Grand Committee of the General Assembly. He also explains if Lynch Prata’s interpretation is adopted, it will represent, at least, a partial return to the embarrassing judicial selection politics of an earlier era and may lead to further undermining of the revolving door ban for other judicial appointments in the future.

Here is an excerpt:

“This is not about preventing Senator Lynch Prata from ever becoming a judge. It is about requiring her and other legislators to wait at least a year after they leave the General Assembly before they can seek to become a judge. Being required to leave the General Assembly for one year is not much to ask of someone before you bestow the honor of a lifetime appointment.

This is not about the qualities or qualifications of Senator Lynch Prata to be a judge. This is about requiring all legislators to follow an ethical requirement: the revolving door prohibition. If Lynch Prata is permitted to seek and be appointed to the Supreme Court, legislators who are more powerful and less principled than her, more questionable and less qualified than her will seek a seat on the Supreme Court in the future.

In recent years, Rhode Island has seen powerful legislators, who were attorneys, engage in unethical conduct. If the revolving door to the Supreme Court is open to these type of legislators, one can imagine the type of unethical lengths they would go to secure themselves a position at the Supreme Court if they wanted it. Furthermore, once the Ethics Commission interprets the law to permit sitting legislators to seek a Supreme Court appointment, undoubtedly other legislators will seek to extend that interpretation to other courts. The more often the revolving door swings open for legislators, the more likely the trading of votes for judgeships will creep back into the legislature. Rhode Island cannot move forward by going backwards on ethics. The ambitions of one State House politician should not be allowed to undo the accomplishments of a generation of reform.”


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