William Robinson ('75) Confirmed to RI Supreme Court
From The Providence Journal (Rhode Island) July 31, 2004
Copyright 2004 Providence Publications, LLC
HEADLINE: Lawmakers confirm new justice
MARK ARSENAULT, Journal Staff Writer
PROVIDENCE - After a long wait, lawyer William P. Robinson's confirmation to the Rhode Island Supreme Court came yesterday in two swift, unanimous votes by the General Assembly.
The court's newest member pledged to serve the state with humility and an open mind, and to "attempt to be fair each and every day."
Supreme Court Justice Maureen McKenna Goldberg declared that Robinson is "committed to the administration of justice." She also shared a letter of support from Chief Justice Frank Williams, who had urged the General Assembly to confirm Robinson.
Governor Carcieri nominated Robinson two months ago to succeed Justice Robert G. Flanders Jr., who is leaving the court next month. The Assembly has the responsibility to "advise and consent" in the appointment of a justice, and lawmakers waited until the 60-day limit for Robinson's confirmation was within hours of expiring.
"It's been a long sixty days, but I signed on to the process and I have no complaints," Robinson, 64, said in an interview.
Robinson, an East Providence native, lives in East Greenwich. He has spent his 27-year legal career at the Edwards & Angell law firm. He is a former member of the East Greenwich School Committee and the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education.
Carcieri has called Robinson an expert in First Amendment and constitutional law.
Robinson is one of the lawyers who has represented Channel 10 reporter Jim Taricani on a contempt finding. Tarcani refused to name the source who gave him an undercover video of Frank Corrente, an aide to former Providence Mayor Vincent A. Cianci, apparently taking a bribe from an informant. That case has been appealed to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Moments before the House of Representatives began its session yesterday, Robinson confessed to being "a little bit" nervous.
"I'm a lawyer, and I'm used to being the one asking the questions," he said.
The House voted 65-0 to approve Robinson's nomination to the five-member state Supreme Court, and then applauded him.On Monday, the House Judiciary Committee had unanimously backed Robinson's nomination after a hearing.
In brief remarks to the House yesterday, Robinson said he was "humbled" and "incredibly grateful."
Robinson then made the short walk through the State House's marble halls to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. There, he was challenged by Sen. Rhoda E. Perry, D-Providence, who noted comments Robinson had made in the newspaper about the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe. v. Wade abortion decision, and the decision last year of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court that legalized same-sex marriages in Massachusetts.
Robinson had told The Providence Journal that, "from the point of view of jurisprudence," the dissenting opinions in both cases "reflected better legal interpretations of the issues before the courts."
Perry questioned whether Robinson would be "predisposed" to one point of view if an issue of abortion or gay marriage came up before the Rhode Island Supreme Court.
Certainly not, Robinson said. "I will address, view, value, weigh, any argument that comes before me," he said. "I have no agenda. . . . The law is the law."
He said that when asked by the newspaper about the two well-known decisions, he offered an answer on points of law. "As a matter of due process," he said, "the dissent had the better argument." He told Perry, "I appreciate the question, frankly, because it gives me a chance to explain my position."
Testimony from Robinson's supporters revealed that he is a Red Sox fan, and he's good at Jeopardy. Friends also praised his intelligence, work ethic and clear thinking.
Joseph V. Cavanagh Jr. testified that Robinson would be "a natural" and "a perfect match" for the state Supreme Court. "He is fiercely concerned about trying to do the right thing," said Cavanagh, a Providence lawyer whose clients include The Journal.
The Judiciary Committee voted unanimously yesterday to recommend Robinson to the full Senate. Later, the Senate confirmed Robinson, by a 30-0 vote.
Sen. Michael J. Damiani, D-East Providence, said he had never received more constituent calls in support of any other judicial nominee.
Robinson earned his law degree from Boston College in 1975. He speaks Spanish, French, German, Latin, Greek and some Catalan, a Spanish dialect.
Robinson and his wife, Marlene, have three children: Jeffrey, Kevin and Courtney.
With reports from Edward Fitzpatrick and Scott Mayerowitz.