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First hearing goes well for court nominee Thompson '73

Rhode Island Democratic senators Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed confirmed their support for the nomination of Justice Ojetta Rogeriee Thompson '73 to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit during a 25-minute hearing on judicial nominations Tuesday in Washington.

As chairman of the hearing, Whitehouse called upon Reed to vouch for the nominee. Thompson "has over 20 years of experience on the bench," Reed said, and "is uniquely qualified to serve on the First Circuit." Thompson also has a reputation for impartiality, he added, after noting that two Republican governors have nominated her to serve on the state's district court and on the superior court in the past. Thompson currently serves on the Rhode Island Superior Court.

Though no Republicans were in the hall, the record of the hearing will stay open for another week for any additional questions or statements, Whitehouse said.

After graduating from Brown, Thompson obtained a law degree from the Boston University School of Law in 1976. She was the first black woman to serve on the Rhode Island Superior Court in 1977 and on the Rhode Island District Court in 1988.

President Obama nominated Thompson to sit on the First Circuit court Oct. 6.
At the hearing, Reed spoke about Thompson's contributions to the Rhode Island community, noting her service as a trustee of Brown and Bryant University. He also mentioned her involvement with the Native American community of Narragansett and her dedication to local charitable organizations.

Asked by Whitehouse whether she would have trouble working with federal law as opposed to state law, Thompson replied that she already has extensive experience with federal issues, especially as they relate to criminal law cases. State judges are advised to refer to federal dictum when state law is unclear, she added.

Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., probed Thompson on some of her comments regarding diversity, though he added, "I think diversity on the court is a great idea."

"My job is to make sure that I don't have preconceived notions about persons," Thompson said. A judge's role is to evaluate the facts and apply the law to those facts, she added.


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