Reported Misconduct Committed By Judge Mary Lisi In Rhode Island
Reported Misconduct Committed By Judge Mary Lisi In Rhode Island

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For your information: Before becoming a jurist in 1994, Mary Lisi was chief disciplinary counsel for the Rhode Island Supreme Court. She also became a judge without having any trial experience.

"Mary Lisi has no meaningful trial experience whatsoever, and she has not gained experience elsewhere to equip her for the federal trial court,"

Stephen Fortunato, now a judge, said in a letter to Senate Judiciary Chairman Joseph Biden.

Complaint One

Since it is commonly spoken amongst lawyers in Rhode Island that if they go against Rhode Island Judges their practices will be ruined by these judges, more people that can afford to do so are hiring out of state attorneys. Now we seem to be hearing more and more that these high powered attorneys are thrown off cases for things that the courts routinely overlook otherwise. For an example, see the case of Sgt. Cornel Young Jr. and Leisa E. Young where Mr. Mahone of DARE pointed out that Lisi told Attys. Scheck and Brustin:

"Don't ever come back on one of my cases."

Also read the rest of this page. note: Slowly but surely, laws have been passed and legal procedures put in place that make it practically impossible to hold governments liable for any wrongdoing. The courts will play and make you pay until the case goes away.

Complaint Two

From the Prov. Journal 10-25-03 - Those familiar with Lisi's judicial demeanor compare her to a nun in a classroom with a ruler in her hand. She won't let members of the public take notes in her courtroom. She requires some members of the working press to show identification before they are allowed to take notes. Even if she has known a reporter for years, her courtroom security officer has demanded to see identification before the reporter can take out a notebook. The year after she took the bench, in what may have been an unprecedented action, she held a juror in contempt and fined him $500 for failing to report for a trial. Lawyers who have tried cases before her say that if you get on her wrong side, her demeanor towards you and your witnesses takes on a decidedly icy tone.

Complaint Three

From Projo in 2006: Lisi presided over the first of two civil trials stemming from the death of Providence police Sgt. Cornel Young Jr., who was off duty when he was shot by two on-duty officers who mistook him for an armed suspect. From the outset, Lisi clashed with Barry C. Scheck, the nationally known lawyer who was representing the slain officer’s mother, Leisa E. Young. Lisi booted Scheck and his associate, Nick Brustin, off the case nine days into the trial, saying,

"Let me suggest to the both of you, don't ever come back on one of my cases."

Lisi ended up censuring Scheck after concluding that all three of Young's lawyers had violated a federal rule by making false statements in a legal memo concerning an agreement about a shooting scene diagram.

The Rhode Island Bar Association wrote a scathing critique of Lisi's actions against the lawyers, calling them an example of "vindictive pursuit by an offended judge". And the U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals later overturned the actions Lisi took against the lawyers, saying that when read as a whole, the legal memo could not be considered false. The trial’s first phase concluded with a jury concluding that Cornel Young's constitutional rights had been violated by one of the two on-duty officers. But five days later, Lisi threw out all the claims, saying that as a matter of law the evidence presented had not crossed the high threshold needed to hold the city of Providence and police supervisors liable. The 1st Circuit later restored a portion of the lawsuit. Another judge presided over that trial, and another jury found the city was not liable for the violation of Sergeant Young's constitutional rights. note: Slowly but surely, laws have been passed and legal procedures put in place that make it practically impossible to hold governments liable for any wrongdoing. The courts will play and make you pay until the case goes away.

Complaint Four

From Projo in 2006 - Lisi also presided over the trial and retrial of Lincoln Park and two of its executives - Nigel Potter and Daniel Bucci - who were convicted of conspiring to bribe former Rhode Island House Speaker John B. Harwood. In sending Bucci and Potter to prison, Lisi said the sentencing

"brings to a close perhaps one of saddest chapters in Rhode Island history."

As a lifelong resident, she said,

"I speak for all Rhode Islanders in saying that when these things happen, it's an embarrassment to us all."

The Lincoln Park defendants appealed, but the 1st Circuit upheld the convictions, saying,

"the trial was well conducted and the outcome is not a surprise."

Complaint Five

In April of 2015 the federal appeals court is sending a lawsuit challenging Rhode Island's child welfare system back to district court, saying the lower court abused its discretion. The appeals court issued a 28-page decision vacating District Court Judge Mary Lisi's 2014 dismissal of the case. The decision says the district court "crossed the line" twice:
1. when it prevented the plaintiffs' attorneys from meeting with their clients who were minors in the custody of Rhode Island's Department of Children, Youth and Families and
2. an order that prevented the plaintiffs from seeking plainly relevant discovery.

Complaint Six

An Editorial titled "Closed Courtroom" in The Providence Journal on June 1, 2015 stated:
We take it for granted in the United States that government, to the greatest extent possible, should operate in a manner that is open and transparent to the public. This principle, expressed so well by President Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address as "government of the people, by the people, for the people," certainly extends to our courtrooms.

So it was surprising to learn that U.S. District Court Judge Mary Lisi last month ordered a courtroom sealed during a hearing in which a woman accused of sex trafficking two young women was expected to plead guilty. As it turned out, a lawyer for a co-defendant objected, and Judge Lisi agreed to delay the hearing until June 12, when she will consider motions on whether it should be open or closed.

While Ms. Lisi is to be commended for letting the parties weigh in, her initial move to close the hearing has elicited cries of concern. Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, said there is "a presumption of openness in the courts" because "the public needs to know what's happening" there.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Pamela Chin, who also objected to closure, pointed to a 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in a case involving a Providence Journal effort to obtain sealed memos and surveillance tapes during the corruption trial of former Providence Mayor Vincent Cianci, which ended with his going to prison for running City Hall as a criminal enterprise.

"The Supreme Court has firmly established that the public has a First Amendment right of access to criminal trials," she wrote. She noted that this "fosters the important values of quality, honesty and respect for our legal system," and she also wrote that hearings can be closed only in cases where an open proceeding would deny someone the right to a fair trial, pose a safety risk or jeopardize an investigation. While Judge Lisi has not stated why she moved to close the hearing, we hope that she will weigh the arguments and, short of a strong and stated justification for closing the hearing, hold it in the open.


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