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RWU Law students can apply to receive up to $3,500 in a public interest summer stipend.  Students chosen have used this funding to finance their summer work in New England, across the U.S. and beyond.



Peter Kilmartin '98

Peter KilmartinJust three days before RWU Law’s annual Public Interest Law Auction was scheduled to kick off at the Peerless Building in Providence this February, immigration rights advocates announced they would protest the presence of Rhode Island’s newly elected attorney general, Peter F. Kilmartin ’98, B.A. ’88 who’d recently signed the hotly contested Secure Communities agreement with U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

Student and staff organizers were aflutter: would the protesters disrupt the auction? Would guests decide to boycott? How would the AG react?

But when Kilmartin arrived that Friday evening, with the protest in full swing, he quickly allayed everyone’s fears: “I shook their hands and thanked them for being there,” he recalls. “This is America! They have every right to their opinion, they have every right to disagree with me – and frankly, they have every right to protest me.”

Though not a crisis likely to rank high on the list of challenges he’ll face over the next four years, the incident may provide a useful illustration of Kilmartin’s approach to demands from manifold stakeholders – the citizens he serves, his colleagues in law enforcement and the political arena, the news media, and a law school inspired by its first alumnus to hold statewide elected office.

AG in the Making

A 24-year Pawtucket Police career, with an extended stint as officer in charge of prosecutions... 20 years in the state legislature, championing laws on such issues as tougher penalties for domestic violence offenders... a criminal justice degree and, a decade later, a juris doctor from RWU...

It’s tempting to connect the dots on Kilmartin’s CV and conclude he’s been running for AG since he first joined the police force in 1984. But Kilmartin insists otherwise: “Two and a half years ago, if you’d told me I’d be sitting in the attorney general’s office, it wasn’t even on my radar screen,” he says.

But when friends and colleagues pushed him to consider a campaign, Kilmartin became intrigued. Upon closer inspection, his law enforcement credentials, his legal expertise and the legislation he’d espoused on behalf of preceding attorneys general seemed to create a unique package of skills. More importantly, Kilmartin knew he could deliver the energy and interest needed for the demanding role.

“This is a statewide, full-time commitment – you have to want this job,” he says. “This office deals with so many aspects of life in Rhode Island beyond prosecuting criminals. That excites me. It isn’t unlike being a police officer or a zealous advocate. You’re there to do the best job you can possibly do on behalf of your client; and in this case, your clients are the citizens of Rhode Island.”

Cop’s-Eye View?

Bruce Kogan – a professor of law at Roger Williams since the school’s early days and a member of Kilmartin’s transition team – remembers Kilmartin as an eager student and a tireless worker who, like many of his fellow law enforcement officers in the evening division, had to dedicate extra time to nail down concepts that ranged beyond the criminal justice portion of the law curriculum. And while Kogan might not have predicted Kilmartin’s ascent to attorney general, he’s also not surprised.

“Peter didn’t get his legal education to jump out and do defense work or become a patent lawyer,” Kogan says. “That was never in his bones – even 16, 17 years ago, I always saw him as a public sector person. In his fiber, he’s a law enforcement guy.”

Indeed, as the first police officer to be elected AG in Rhode Island, Kilmartin has faced criticism that he might unduly favor a cop’s-eye view of cases. Kilmartin disagrees: “My police experience provides good perspective on what this office should be about – protecting the victims, looking after their interests and achieving justice on their behalf.”

Kogan adds that Kilmartin has experience advocating for a variety of interests. “Peter knows he’ll have to make decisions for all of the constituencies that the attorney general serves – not just the police departments. He recognizes that citizens expect the AG to try to do the right thing. And Peter has always been about doing the right thing.”

As RWU Law’s first graduate to sit in the AG’s chair, Kilmartin sees his rise to prominence as mirroring RWU Law’s evolving place in the fabric of Rhode Island. “All of a sudden, it’s like it’s always been here,” he says. “It’s the resource that people naturally go to for input on issues in the legal community. And it’s here to stay.”