PORTLAND – Thomas Delahanty II, one of the longest-serving judges in the history of Maine’s Superior Court, was sworn in Friday as U.S. attorney for Maine.

The Lewiston native, lifelong Democrat and member of a storied legal family returned to a post he held for just over a year in 1980 and 1981. He succeeded Paula Silsby, a Republican who had held the office since 2001.

Delahanty, 65, was recommended for the job by a panel selected by Maine’s two U.S. representatives, Democrats Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree. President Obama nominated Delahanty in March.

“I greatly appreciate the honor of President Obama’s nomination,” Delahanty told a standing-room-only crowd of the state’s top judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers. Delahanty was joined in U.S. District Court by his wife, Ruth, sons Patrick and Michael and other family members.

Delahanty said he didn’t have the time in the early 1980s to fulfill his potential in the role of U.S. attorney, and he is eager to have a second chance.

“I’ve always had the desire to return if the opportunity presented itself,” he said. “It’s a first-class operation, the pinnacle of a prosecutor’s career.

“This office has an outstanding reputation and I intend to maintain that standard,” he said.

Before he stepped down this year to become U.S. attorney, Delahanty served for more than 26 years as a Superior Court justice, most recently presiding in Androscoggin County Superior Court in Auburn. He was chief Superior Court justice from 1990 until 1995.

“It is not unusual for a prosecutor to become a judge. It is rare for a judge to become a prosecutor,” said U.S. District Judge John Woodcock, chief judge of Maine’s federal judiciary, who was the master of ceremonies Friday.

Woodcock said the position of U.S. attorney is one of great power because that individual has the discretion on whether to bring charges, and those decisions forever change the lives of the parties involved and their families.

“You are the person for the job,” Woodcock told Delahanty. “You have the temperament, the intellect, the life experience, the genius and the wisdom.”

Delahanty graduated from St. Michael’s College in 1967 and from the University of Maine School of Law in 1970. In the early 1970s, he worked as a defense lawyer and then as a prosecutor in Androscoggin County, leading up to his appointment in 1975 as district attorney for Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties.

In May of 1980, President Carter chose Delahanty to serve as U.S. attorney for Maine, replacing George Mitchell, who had been appointed as a federal judge. Delahanty left the office in August 1981, after President Reagan was elected.

His father, the late Thomas Delahanty, was a Superior Court judge and served on the Maine Supreme Judicial Court from 1973 until his retirement in 1979.

Delahanty’s grandfather John David Clifford Jr. was a federal judge in Maine in the 1950s.

Staff Writer Trevor Maxwell can be contacted at 791-6451 or at:

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