RI. Federal Court Nominee Draws Criticism

Providence, RI – Some observers are questioning the qualifications of the lawyer nominated to fill an opening for a federal judgeship. Senator Lincoln Chafee nominated a close associate, William Smith, for an opening Wednesday. Smith is a partner at Edward’s and Angell. He worked as Warwick City Solicitor, while Chafee was mayor. Smith also served as Chafee’s deputy chief of staff during his campaign for US Senate. Chafee said his priority in nominating Rhode Island’s next federal judge was finding someone who would instill confidence in the federal courts. “Every step of the way that I’ve worked with Will he gave me good sound legal advice that served me well in the city of Warwick…the more complex the problem the more he rises to the challenge, and I know he’s going to be a good federal judge,” Chafee said. The nomination is receiving some criticism. Several attorneys, who asked not to be identified, told WRNI that Smith does not have enough experience to hear cases in Federal Court. Smith insisted he is up to the challenge. “I have a very solid feel for the trial process.. If you look around the judiciary you find that a number of the finest judges come to the bench without a substantial amount of experience in that particular court,” he said. Smith refused to discuss his personal views on many controversial issues. He did say that he would not hesitate to apply federal law regarding the death penalty. On abortion, he said that he agrees with the interpretation of Roe versus Wade that Judge Ronald Lagueux used in throwing out a state law that would have banned a type of late term abortions. Smith’s nomination goes to the White House. Despite his occasionally rocky relationship with the Bush administration, Sen. Chafee predicted that Smith’s nomination will pass that step. Chafee said that he hopes Smith will be confirmed by the Senate by mid- summer.

For the full report, listen here to WRNI's report by Martha Bebinger.