On April 28, 2020, State Senator Erin Lynch Prata (D-RI), applied to fill retiring Justice Gilbert Indeglia’s seat on the state supreme court.
Senator Lynch Prata is a former clerk to Supreme Court Associate Justice Maureen McKenna Goldberg. She stated that becoming a supreme court justice “has always been a dream,” and that the position on the state supreme court provides an opportunity for her to “give back to the community in a new way.”
Because she currently holds a political position, she sought an advisory opinion from the Rhode Island Ethics Commission to ensure that her application was not in conflict with the “revolving door” provision in the state code of ethics, which prohibits state legislators from applying to state agencies within a year of their departure from the legislature. In her letter to the ethics commission, she asked that the commission “provide me with guidance as to whether I am correct that the revolving door provision does not apply to a member of the General Assembly who seeks appointment by the Governor to the constitutional office of Supreme Court Justice.”
The code of ethics states that she may seek election to any constitutional office or “be appointed to a senior policy-making position on a general officer’s or general assembly’s staff, or appointment by the governor as a department director.” The code of ethics does specify judgeships in its enumeration of offices which may be sought within the one year time-frame of departing from the state legislature.
Lynch Prata argues a position on the state supreme court is a constitutional office as opposed to a position within a state agency. In an interview on April 28, she said, “The law is clear. If I didn’t think this was an appropriate thing to do, I wouldn’t be doing it.”