Three District Court seats are open. Here's who's been nominated

PROVIDENCE –Ten lawyers made the Rhode Island Judicial Nominating Commission's lists this week for seats on the District Court bench.

The commission, which helps vet the state’s judges, forwarded three lists of contenders to Gov. Daniel McKee for District Court judgeships, according to Krystle Tadesse, chairwoman of the commission.

All three are lifetime tenure seats with a $165,158 annual base salary.

The commission chose five candidates for a new District Court vacancy created by the passage of law authorizing an additional judgeship to accommodate a new mental health treatment calendar. The commission made its picks after a public hearing and interview process Wednesday night.

They include Joseph R. Ballirano, a Johnston solo practitioner with three decades of experience; Assistant Attorney General Amy Dodge Murray, who oversees the Providence County grand jury; District Court Magistrate J. Patrick O’Neill, a former Democratic House Majority Whip named to the bench in 2017; Providence private practitioner Paul D. Ragosta, a son of late Superior Court Judge Vincent Ragosta; and Debra A. Saunders, Clerk of Rhode Island Supreme Court who owns The Daily Scoop ice cream shops with her husband.

District Court vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Elaine T. Bucci

For the District Court vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Elaine T. Bucci, the commission selected Angelyne E. Cooper-Bailey, legal counsel for the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training who in 2021 became the first attorney of color nominated and appointed to serve as a judge on the Cranston Municipal Court. In addition, Ballirano, Dodge Murray, O’Neill and Saunders were also nominated for this position.

District Court vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Christine Jabour

Those in the running for the opening created by the retirement of Judge Christine Jabour include Rebecca L. Aitchison, an assistant federal public defender who previously worked for the Rhode Island Public Defender’s office; Special Assistant Attorney General Molly Kapstein Cote; Kas R. DeCarvalho, a partner with Pannone Lopes Devereaux & O'Gara who serves on the board of directors of the Thurgood Marshall Law Society; and Nicholas Parrillo, a former state public defender who now practices with Marin and Barrett, in addition to Ballirano. Parrillo is the son of Superior Court Presiding Justice Alice B. Gibney.

Who will oversee RI's mental health treatment calendar

District Court Chief Judge Jeanne E. LaFazia has assigned Judge Pamela Woodcock-Pfeiffer to preside over the mental health treatment calendar, according to Kara A. Picozzi, a spokeswoman for the courts. Woodcock-Pfeiffer for years has overseen the veterans court, an alternative judicial process for veterans diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury who were charged with misdemeanor crimes.

This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Here are the judicial nominees to lead 3 Rhode Island district courts