First Female Public Defender in Rhode Island History
Providence, RI - In a State House ceremony this morning, Governor Lincoln D. Chafee formally swore in Mary S. McElroy, a career public defender with nearly twenty years of experience at the state and federal level, as Rhode Island Public Defender. McElroy is the first woman to hold the position since it was established in 1941.
"Over the course of her accomplished career, Mary McElroy has earned an outstanding reputation in the courtroom," Governor Chafee said. "Her experience as both a state and federal public defender, her extensive knowledge of the judicial system and its workings, and her commitment to her clients and the people of her state will make her a truly excellent leader of this important office. I know that Mary will live up to the high standards set by her predecessor, the beloved John Hardiman."
McElroy has been an active member of the Rhode Island legal community for two decades. After graduating from Providence College, where she was a member of the Liberal Arts Honors Program, McElroy attended Suffolk University School of Law, from which she received her J.D., cum laude, in 1992 and received the American Jurisprudence Award. She then clerked for the Honorable Donald F. Shea of the Rhode Island Supreme Court and spent a year as an associate with the Providence firm Tate & Elias.
From 1994 to 2006, McElroy served as Assistant Public Defender in the Office of the Rhode Island Public Defender. In this role, she represented indigent defendants charged in felony cases, conducted felony jury trials in Rhode Island Superior Court, and assisted mentally ill and chemically dependent clients in securing treatment alternatives to incarceration.
Since 2006, McElroy has served as Assistant Federal Public Defender in the Office of the Federal Defender for the U.S. District of Rhode Island. In this capacity, she has represented indigent defendants in criminal matters in federal court, managed each aspect of the criminal process from arraignment to trial and sentencing, and conducted suppression hearings, sentencing hearings, and felony jury trials – among other responsibilities.
McElroy is a member of the Rhode Island Bar Association, the Bar of the U.S. District Court, District of Rhode Island, and the Bar of the First Circuit Court of Appeals. She is currently President-elect of the Rhode Island Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
The Rhode Island Public Defender oversees approximately fifty lawyers who provide legal representation to indigent adult criminal defendants and indigent juvenile respondents. The state agency also provides representation to parents who are threatened with loss of custody of their children because of alleged unfitness or neglect.