U.S. District Court of Rhode Island

Ian Donnis / RIPR

Rhode Island’s two U.S. Senators, Democrats Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, have nominated Rhode Island’s top public defender, Mary McElroy, to the U.S. District Court vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Mary Lisi.

If U.S. senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrats both, are searching for a fine candidate for the opening on U.S. District Court in Providence, federal magistrate Patricia Sullivan whould get top consideration.

Sullivan has the legal, academic and community service qualifications necessary for a federal judge. Sources tell Rhode Island Public Radio that she has applied for the post, which is vacant due to the retirement of U.S. District Judge Mary Lisi.

The murder case that pitted Gov. Lincoln Chafee against federal prosecutors over the issue of the death penalty has been closed with a life prison sentence for Jason Pleau, who shot and killed a Woonsocket gas station manager in 2010.

Pleau was sentenced to life without parole in U.S. District Court by Judge William E. Smith. Pleau, 35, of Providence, shot David Main at close range as Main approached the doorstep of a Woonsocket bank where he was to have deposited the gas station receipts.

Catherine Welch / RIPR

The federal government shutdown is having an impact on the prosecution of federal cases in Rhode Island. 

U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha has had to furlough a third to a half of his 45-person staff because of the federal government shutdown.  He said they’re managing by bringing in people who are working on the most urgent cases and then rotating them as the cases change.