WASHINGTON, D.C. -- After four years of anticipation and delay, the U.S. Senate on Wednesday approved the nomination of Rhode Island Public Defender Mary S. McElroy to the federal bench.

The full Senate held a floor vote Wednesday afternoon on President Donald Trump's nomination of McElroy, the state's first female chief state public defender, along with five other judicial nominees.

The Senate's approval was long awaited in U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island, where the court's two sitting judges juggled busy calendars as McElroy's nomination twice made it to the senate only to stall amid partisan bickering. She will join Chief Judge William E. Smith, Judge John J. McConnell Jr., and Magistrate Judges Lincoln Almond and Patricia Sullivan in U.S. District Court.

"We're absolutely thrilled with her confirmation. She's going to be a terrific addition to our court. She's highly respected and liked throughout the bar. She will be an asset to this court and the judiciary," Smith said.

President Barack Obama first nominated McElroy in 2015 at the recommendations of Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse. The Senate Committee on the Judiciary voted in January 2016, without opposition, to forward McElroy's name to the full Senate for consideration.

After that, there was little movement on the nomination. Whitehouse called on the full Senate to take up McElroy's nomination and others that had been vetted and approved by the Committee on the Judiciary and were awaiting the full Senate's advice and consent.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell objected, emphasizing that the Senate had approved 23 more of Obama's judicial picks than it had approved for President George W. Bush over the course of his presidency to this point.

Trump nominated her again in 2018. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 19-2 in October to advance the nomination, but she was never confirmed by the full Senate before it recessed.

Trump resurrected her nomination yet again in April. In June, the Judiciary Committee approved McElroy's nomination 19-3 to fill the vacancy created by U.S. District Judge Mary Lisi's retirement.

Prior to becoming Rhode Island's first female chief public defender in 2012, McElroy, of East Greenwich, worked for six years as an assistant federal public defender in Rhode Island and for 12 as an assistant state public defender. A Warwick native, she is the daughter of teachers union leader Edward C. McElroy and Edwina McElroy.

McElroy graduated with honors from Suffolk University School of Law and holds an undergraduate degree in history from Providence College.

Continue Reading

on providencejournal.com