Whitehouse Opening Statement from Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on the Nomination of O. Rogeriee Thompson to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

As Delivered

Today we will consider President Obama's nomination of O. Rogeriee Thompson to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. I am very grateful to the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chairman Leahy, for the opportunity to chair this particular hearing, and I do so with great pleasure since the nominee is a distinguished Rhode Island judge and a friend of many years duration. I welcome Justice Thompson, and her family and friends, to the Judiciary Committee and to the United States Senate. In particular, I want to welcome her husband Bill who is here, her daughters Reza and Sarah, her son is away in Spain but is here in spirit, and also her brother-in-law Ed Clifton who is another distinguished jurist along with her husband Bill. It's quite a judicial family in Rhode Island. Ed Clifton, it's wonderful to have you here Your Honor. Clifford Monteiro is here, who is a distinguished leader of the NAACP and had a very long and distinguished career in law enforcement in Rhode Island. And I also want to welcome and have the record reflect the presence of Congresswoman Christensen from the House of Representatives to be here for her friend and this family today. I'm very please Congresswoman that you could be here.

I particularly welcome to the Committee the senior Senator from Rhode Island, Jack Reed, who will introduce Justice Thompson at the conclusion of my brief opening statement. It has been a great honor to serve with Senator Reed in the Senate and it was a pleasure, and he showed great courtesy in allowing me to assist him in identifying the best possible nominee to serve on the First Circuit, which serves our home state of Rhode Island. I was proud to join him in recommending Justice Thompson to President Obama and I thank the President for recognizing her expertise and good judgment.

Justice Thompson comes before the Committee with an exceptional record of achievement that speaks both to her remarkable talents and her lifetime of hard work. Born in segregated South Carolina, Justice Thompson pursued the opportunity to finish high school in Scarsdale, New York, even though it meant moving away from her family at an early age. After excelling there, Justice Thompson went on to graduate from Rhode Island's Brown University and to receive a law degree from Boston University. With those academic credentials, one might have expected Justice Thompson to pursue a lucrative career in the corporate realm, but she instead chose to employ her talents in underserved communities in Providence. I am very glad that she did.

A successful career in legal practice led to Justice Thompson's appointment as an Associate Judge on the Rhode Island District Court and subsequently as an Associate Justice on the Rhode Island Superior Court. Justice Thompson now has twenty-one years of judicial experience and a record of respect from all corners of Rhode Island's bench and bar. Her courtroom deservedly has come to be known as a place in which every party can expect a fair hearing.

Justice Thompson's extensive experience on the Rhode Island bench prepares her well for the work of the First Circuit. Not only has it allowed her to consider the customary range of federal issues that state courts regularly face, but it has allowed Justice Thompson to demonstrate the proper role of a judge: to respect the role of the legislature; to decide cases based on the law and the facts; to not prejudge any case, but listen to every party that comes before them; to respect precedent; and to limit themselves to the issues that the Court must decide.

But Justice Thompson not only is an exceptionally qualified nominee. She also is a historic nominee, as she would be the first African American, and only the second woman, ever to serve on the First Circuit Court of Appeals. Indeed, Justice Thompson has a habit of breaking barriers, as she was the first African American woman appointed to Rhode Island's District Court and to Rhode Island's Superior Court. It is fitting that she should be the one to make another piece of long-overdue history. She is a worthy nominee for this historic occasion.

I look forward to working with Chairman Leahy and my colleagues as this nomination proceeds through the Committee and ultimately to confirmation.