The ceiling of the main Rotunda inside Pennsylvania’s Capitol building. (Photo by Amanda Berg for the Capital-Star).
The Republican-controlled Pennsylvania Senate has approved two nominations by Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro, confirming the state’s top prosecutor and head of State Police.
Lawmakers in the upper chamber voted 49-0 to approve Michelle Henry as attorney general and Maj. Christopher Paris as State Police commissioner. Confirmation requires a two-thirds Senate vote.
Henry, who served as first deputy attorney general for then-Attorney General Shapiro, and Paris, who enlisted with the Pennsylvania State Police in 1999, appeared before lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary and Law and Justice committees to discuss their nominations earlier this week.
Both panels voted unanimously to advance the nominations.
“We have become the voice for those that need a voice, the voice for victims, the voice for consumers, and that is very important,” Henry said of the Office of Attorney General. “And they need somebody on their side, and we have done that.”
If confirmed as attorney general, Henry said her No. 1 priority “would be to be that voice, to be fearless, to be independent, and to be there for those individuals.”
After completing the remaining two years in Shapiro’s uncompleted term, Henry does not plan to seek election to another term as attorney general, she told lawmakers.
Raised in Westmoreland County and a graduate of Allegheny College and Widener University School of Law, Henry is a 26-year veteran prosecutor. She previously worked for the Westmoreland County Legal Aid Office and clerked for now-retired Lancaster County President Judge Michael Georgelis. She spent over 20 years in the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office and later served as the county’s top prosecutor in 2008.
Henry cited the arrests of five Jehovah’s Witness congregation members accused of child sexual abuse; fentanyl seizures in Pittsburgh that came from outside Pennsylvania; an initiative in Luzerne County to offer drug treatment to defendants dealing with addiction; and a hotline for residents affected by the Ohio train derailment as recent accomplishments.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lisa Baker, R-Luzerne, said Henry is “not just well-versed in the law and the courtroom, but someone who has actively engaged in community efforts aimed at directing kids in safe and productive directions.” She highlighted Henry’s assistance in establishing the Bucks County Children’s Advocacy Center, which helps connect children who have been abused with resources and support.
“There’s no question about her familiarity with the different regions of our state,” Baker said.
Paris, a Scranton native, graduated from the University of Scranton and Temple University Law School. He also graduated from the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy and passed the Pennsylvania and New Jersey bar exams.
“If confirmed, it is my goal to lead the women and men of the Pennsylvania State Police with the support of the Shapiro-Davis administration and the Legislature to tackle the many problems of this challenging operating environment,” Paris told lawmakers. “I plan to rely on the best resource that we have — our people, civilian and enlisted.”
Senate Law and Justice Committee Chair Mike Regan, R-York, noted widespread support for Paris, saying he will make Pennsylvania safer.
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