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The state's judicial system dates back to 1636. The Rhode Island Supreme Court is the highest court in the state and the court of last resort. Appeals from the Superior Courts, District Courts, Family Courts, and Workers’ Compensation courts are reviewed in the Supreme Court. There is no intermediate appellate court. Instead the Supreme justices hear all appeals cases.
Additionally, the Supreme Court also has supervisory and administrative duties. All lower courts report to the Supreme Court. There are five justices, and they meet en banc (meaning all five) to review cases the first full week of each month. The only exception to this is the summer months. They hear oral arguments and review briefs then form an opinion. Each case takes between four to six weeks to review before they make a decision. Only one judge per case writes the opinion.
Opinions are publicly posted for review. The Supreme Court of the Little Rhody has one Chief Justice who assumes additional responsibilities along with his or her judicial duties.
Most court records in this state will be open to the general public. The state has a search feature on their judicial website where patrons can find cases in most courts. However according to their Rhode Island Judiciary Rules of Practice Governing Public Access to Electronic Case Information (Public Access Rules), “sealed cases and confidential case types, documents or information” will not be included in the files. United States federal and state laws also prohibits personally identifying information like children’s names, home addresses, social security numbers, tax IDs, and other private or sensitive information from being included in open most records.
Filing a case in the Little Rhody is easy using their Electronic Filing System (EFS). The judicial branch of government has created a “RI Judiciary User Guide for Electronic Filing” for patrons to use when filing a case. The state’s vendor, Tyler Technologies created a system called Odyssey File and Serve, and when filing, users must also pay a fee to them. New users must register for an account before using the system. RI also has a section on their judicial branch website (RI.gov) where all filing forms are listed by court type, they offer court rules, the clerk's office hours, and a privacy notice. Patrons of the court system can easily find and download the forms they need to file in person.
If you want to search for State of Rhode Island court documents, try the Infotracer tool. Within minutes gain access to court cases all over the state including areas like Providence County, Pawtucket, Providence Plantations, Bristol County, Washington County, and Newport County. Thanks to the RI Access to Public Records Act R.I. Gen. Laws §§38-2-1, companies like Infotracer can offer criminal records, family and probate cases, civil disputes, state property records, dockets, county courthouse addresses, bankruptcies, and more records from New England!
Anyone can perform a private records search without any special permission or even a reason. Most records will be online except for court-ordered sealed items, and things kept confidential by law such as juvenile records.
Use Infotracer to get free instant access to RI records from most courts in the state. The best way to look up RI cases is using a state court records name search. It will provide you with access to court cases from RI district courts, family courts, workers compensation courts, and others in all six judicial districts in the state.
In 2012, the Rhode Island courts received 199,532 filings. In 2016, the number of filings decreased by 14.2% and counted 171,112 filings.
|Court Type||Incoming Caseloads|
Domestic relations caseload of Rhode Island at year end of 2016 has decreased by 29.7% compared to the last 5 years.
|Year||Domestic Relations Caseload||Total Statewide Caseload|
The number of criminal cases in Rhode Island courts counts to 33,578, with 11,887 felony cases and 21,691 misdemeanors accordingly.
|Year||Criminal Caseload||Misdemeanor Caseload||Felony Caseload|
The Rhode Island Superior Courts are the general jurisdiction trial courts for the state. These courts handle all felonies and civil cases of more than $10,000. These courts have concurrent jurisdiction with District Courts in civil lawsuits where the amount is between $5,000 - $10,000. There are 22 judges and five magistrates that preside over these courts. These courts hold jury trials for both civil and criminal matters. District appeals come to Superior judges, and they are tried “de novo” (meaning a brand, new trial is used). These courts also handles zoning board, Probate Court and agency appeals.
Rhode Island District Courts are limited jurisdiction trial courts, and they have 12 judges and two magistrates. One judge assumes the role of Chief Judge, and the other 11 are Associate Judges. District Courts have concurrent jurisdiction with Superior Courts in civil matters of $5,000-$10,000. They also handle cases involving contract disputes, tort cases, small claims of up to $2,500, mental health cases, preliminary hearings for felonies, and administrative agency appeals. These courts have a division for helping veterans with treatment, and they resolve landlord/tenant disputes. District Courts are split up into six judicial districts across the RI state.
Rhode Island’s Family Court was created in 1935 as a division of the Supreme justice system. Since then the court has been restructured, but its goals are still the same; “focus special attention on individual and social problems concerning families and children,” and “to assist, to protect, and if possible, to restore families whose unity or well-being is threatened.” The types of cases heard in Family courthouses are divorces, alimony, child support, child delinquency, adoptions, paternity proceedings, mentally ill children, the neglect and abuse of children and other family-related matters.
Rhode Island’s Workers’ Compensation Court was created by the General Assembly in 1991 and is part of the unified justice system. These courts hear all disputes between employers and injured employees regarding workers’ compensation benefits. Their mission statement is to “create a fair and efficient system to get weekly benefits to a deserving employee and to discontinue those benefits when the employee is no longer disabled.” Due to the nature of this court, they have made filing and the court system “user-friendly” to make it easy for disabled patrons to navigate the system quickly.
RI created their Traffic Tribunal in 1999 to specifically deal with all traffic-related cases, incidents and infractions. This court replaced the Administrative Adjudication Court. Traffic Tribunal is part of the RI unified justice system. This court has eight judicial officers, made up of a Chief Magistrate, an Administrative Magistrate and two Associate Judges along with four Magistrates. Traffic Tribunal is a stand-alone court under the sole direction of the Chief Magistrate. This court has original jurisdiction over civil traffic offenses. The court proceedings include trials, arraignments, motions, and citations.