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by Jim Vincent, Contributing Writer, NAACP Providence Branch – Nancy Thomas, Publisher
The NAACP Providence Branch is thrilled with the appointments of Melissa Long and Elizabeth Ortiz to the Supreme and Family Courts, respectively!Superior Court Justice, Melissa Long, a descendant of Black American slaves, would become the first person of color appointed to the Rhode Island Supreme Court!Central Falls Municipal Court judge Elizabeth Ortiz, of Colombian descent, would become the second Latinx and first Latina appointed to any Rhode Island Court!The NAACP Providence Branch actively supported both candidates by meeting with Governor Raimondo; advocating through radio, television, newspaper and online interviews; using social media; initiating a letter writing campaign and word of mouth outreach.“Diversify Our Courts” advocacy was the branch’s number one 2020 priority! Subsequently, we are very pleased with the outcome and thank Governor Raimondo for making our judiciary more diverse, representative and stronger. Finally, we congratulate Melissa Long and Elizabeth Ortiz for making much deserved history!!
Jim Vincent is in his 5th term as the president of the NAACP Providence Branch. He is also the producer and host of the Jim Vincent Television Show. Jim writes and speaks with passion on the issue of diversity.
Editor’s Note: Earlier this week, Gov. Raimondo made all her appointments to Rhode Island court vacancies:
“I am thrilled to appoint this group of talented public servants to our state’s highest courts,” said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. “As Governor, one of my most important and sacred responsibilities is to appoint high-caliber judges who reflect the diversity of the Rhode Islanders they serve. I am confident that each of these nominees will fairly and honorably uphold the laws and values of our state.”
Melissa A. Long, who currently serves as an Associate Justice of the Rhode Island Superior Court, makes history as the first person of color nominated to serve on the Rhode Island Supreme Court. Governor Raimondo appointed Judge Long to the Rhode Island Superior Court in 2017. Judge Long was previously the Deputy Secretary of State and Director of Administration in the Rhode Island Office of the Secretary of State. Prior to that, she served in a variety of roles at the state Department of Transportation, including Senior Legal Counsel and Title VI Coordinator. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia and the George Mason University School of Law and lives in Providence with her husband and three children.
Governor Raimondo also appointed Erin Lynch Prata to the Supreme Court. In addition to her experience as a member of the Rhode Island State Senate and Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Lynch Prata will bring to the role nearly two decades of litigation experience. She has represented clients before the Rhode Island Superior Court, Family Court and District Court, among others, and started her career clerking for Rhode Island Supreme Court Justice Maureen McKenna Goldberg. Lynch Prata received a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Boston College in 1997 and a Juris Doctor from The Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law in 2000.Pending successful confirmation from the House and Senate, the Rhode Island Supreme Court will be majority-female for the first time in its history.
Linda Rekas Sloan of West Greenwich is the first Asian-American woman nominated to serve on the Rhode Island Superior Court. A graduate of Providence College and the Boston University School of Law with nearly 30 years of legal experience, Linda currently works full-time as Assistant Vice President & Counsel at Fidelity National Title Group and part-time as the sole member of Linda Rekas Sloan, LLC.
Governor Raimondo is nominating Richard D. Raspallo of Cranston to the Rhode Island Superior Court. Raspallo has served as a Superior Court Magistrate since 2017. Prior to that, he worked as legal counsel to the Rhode Island General Assembly–including for the Rhode Island House Speaker and House Majority Leader–for 15 years. He also has nearly two decades of private practice experience. A lifelong Rhode Islander, he is a graduate of Cranston High School West, the University of Rhode Island and the Roger Williams University School of Law.
Elizabeth Ortiz, a first-generation Colombian-American, is the first Latina nominated to serve on the Rhode Island Family Court. In addition to owning a private practice where she represents clients in custody and divorce matters, she is currently a Municipal Court Judge in Central Falls. From 2012 to 2019, she was an adjunct faculty member at the Community College of Rhode Island in the Legal Studies Department. Ortiz frequently performs pro bono legal work, representing clients in litigation, offering her services as a Guardian Ad Litem, and providing consulting work to the Rhode Island ACLU. She lives in Warwick and is a graduate of the Community College of Rhode Island, Roger Williams University and the Roger Williams University School of Law.
Governor Raimondo is nominating Kevin Reall to the Rhode Island Workers’ Compensation Court. A sole proprietor with more than three decades of legal experience, his concentration is in areas of negligence and workers’ compensation. He has run his own private practice since 2010. He previously worked for the Rhode Island General Assembly and clerked for both the Rhode Island Supreme Court and Providence Housing Court. He is a graduate of Providence College and the Suffolk University School of Law.