JNC Considers 6 Nominees for Chief of RI Family Court

The JNC is considering and will be interviewing 6 candidates for the position of Chief of the Rhode Island Family Court.  Here is the Providence Journal review of the 6 candidates:

The Judicial Nominating Commission announced July 12 that it would interview six Family Court judges for the top seat: Kathleen A. Voccola, Michael B. Forte, Laureen D’Ambra, Haiganush R. Bedrosian, Stephen J. Capineri and John E. McCann. Whoever is chosen will lead the court that settles divorces, handles custody and child-support disputes, as well as juvenile criminal cases.

Only McCann, the newest addition, had no letters submitted on his behalf as of last week. McCann, 60, of Barrington, came to the court in October with 30 years of private practice.

Bedrosian garnered the most backers. Her supporters include Chief U.S. District Judge Mary M. Lisi; state Supreme Court Justice Gilbert V. Indeglia; Superior Court Judges Edward C. Clifton and Bennett R. Gallo; Workers’ Compensation Court Judges Janette R. Bertness and George T. Salem; and Brother Brendan Gerrity, president of Ocean Tides.

One letter came from Roxie Sgouros, whose parents went to church with Bedrosian’s parents. Sgouros wrote of her friend’s loving care of her sister, mother and husband, Vincent Izzo, through illness. “I hope you can have the pleasure of knowing this extraordinary woman …,” she wrote. “What I have tried to give you is a little insight into a compassionate, beautiful woman who would be a great asset to the state … as the chief judge of Family Court.”

Bedrosian, 67, of Warwick, has served as acting Family Court chief judge since Jeremiah S. Jeremiah Jr.’s retirement June 30. She joined the court in 1980, with prior private practice and prosecutorial experience.

U.S. Sen. Jack Reed; Superior Court Judges Francis J. Darigan, Jr. and Stephen P. Nugent; Special Assistant Attorney General Cindy A. Soccio; and Gary G. Pellicano, senior counsel for the state Department of Children, Youth and Families are among those recommending D’Ambra, 53, of Lincoln.

Reed praised D’Ambra, who he’s known for 20 years and previously served as the state child advocate, for her intellect, dedication and passion for the judiciary. “As a justice of the Rhode Island Family Court, Judge D’Ambra’s tenacity and ability to ask tough questions, coupled with her compassion and innate sense of justice has made a significant contribution to the court,” Reed wrote. D’Ambra joined the court in 2004, after acting as the child advocate for 15 years.

Capineri, too, won Salem’s support along with that of Family Court General Magistrate John J. O’Brien Jr., and Joseph S. Gendron, regional vice president of GTECH Corp. Salem wrote that he met Capineri, 56, of East Providence, while the two were classmates at Providence College. The executive board of the Rhode Island Trial Judges Association, he said, looks to Capineri as possessing a voice of reason and contemplation with a leadership ability to move the group’s agenda forward. “He will be a natural consensus builder who will lead in a collegial way,” Salem said. Capineri was named to the Family Court bench in 2001, after serving as a magistrate there for five years.

Forte, 58, of Johnston, drew support from John Henry Jr., the Warwick Police Department juvenile prosecution officer; Thomas F. Ahern, administrator of the Division of Public Utilities and Carriers; and Linda M. Quattrucci, executive director of the Rhode Island Legal/Educational Partnership; as well as Family Court clerks and staff.

Greg Crouchley, Forte’s neighbor, wrote about Forte’s modest, tasteful home, whose backyard serves as a gathering place for family and friends. He told of Forte coaxing him through the stressful and complex four-year process of adopting a little girl from an orphanage in Guatemala. The story ended, he wrote, with a scared, disoriented little girl in his courtroom who walked out laughing and happy. Forte was a partner in private practice before being appointed to the court in 1987.

Peter A. Slom, a manager at Rhode Island Training School; Debra A. Pellegrino, a North Providence truancy officer; Karen J. Lepore, senior legal counsel for the state Department of Children, Youth and Families; and Elizabeth M. Gilheeney, director of juvenile justice policy for the Rhode Island Justice Commission weighed in on Voccola’s behalf.

Providence lawyer William C. Dimitri met Voccola while she was an assistant city solicitor in Cranston. “It was in those early years of my practice that I learned to distinguish between the prosecutor that sought to convict for the mere sake of doing so and those who sought to do justice,” Dimitri wrotw. “Judge Voccola would definitely be classified in the latter group.” He praised her knowledge, fairness and evenhanded in negotiating pleas and persuasive in impressing young offenders with the importance of conducting themselves within the law.

Voccola was named to the bench in 1989 after serving as state liquor-control administrator. The commission will interview candidates for the post, which carries a $154,707 base salary, Aug. 10, followed by a public hearing Aug. 17.

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