Updated August 28 at 4:28pm

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After 44 years, R.I.’s first bankruptcy judge retires

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PROVIDENCE - After serving 44 years as the first and only bankruptcy judge in the state, U.S. District Judge Arthur Votolato celebrated his retirement among friends on Tuesday.

More than 100 people filled the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Rhode Island, on Westminster Street, to celebrate the career of the longest continuously serving active bankruptcy judge in the country.

The courtroom Votolato has presided in since 1982 was dedicated in his honor with a plaque unveiled during the ceremony.

Both Votolato's two daughters, Dacia, 52, and Hera, 51, were in attendance, as was his successor, Diane Finkle, a bankruptcy and receivership attorney in Providence.

"Historically as you now know Diane, there's not much turnover in this business," Votolato joked. He wished her many years of satisfying work and promised it never gets boring.

Votolato was appointed the U.S. District Court's Bankruptcy referee in 1968 and when a separate U.S. Bankruptcy Court was created in Rhode Island in 1978, he was named its first and only judge.

Leah Waterman is also leaving the court office after serving almost 26 years as the judicial assistant and was honored during the ceremony.

"My plan is to spend more time with family, both here and with Linda in Florida," Votolato said of his retirement plans. He said he would visit his sister in west Philadelphia, who was in the audience, and his brother, who lives in Brighton, England.

Votolato also cited health concerns as a reason for stepping down early from his 14-year appointment. "I'll also spend more time in cardiac maintenance which I've been neglecting recently," Votolato said. "Hopefully much more time around airplanes, and maybe even reading something that doesn't involve [the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act]."

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