The Rhode Island Superior Courts are the general jurisdiction trial courts for the state. They hold jury and non-jury trials for both criminal and civil matters. Superior Courts have original jurisdiction over all felony cases. They also handle tort cases, real property cases of more than $10,000, contract disputes, civil appeals from lower courts, miscellaneous civil actions, criminal appeals, misdemeanors, and other types of cases. Superior Courts hold concurrent jurisdiction with District Courts in civil matters of between $5,000 - $10,000.
The Superior Court in Rhode Island consists of twenty-two judges and five magistrates. There is one presiding judge chosen to oversee this court. The court is supported by the “Superior Court Administrator, the Superior Court Clerks, the Jury Commissioner, and various administrative staff.” Judges are appointed by the Governor from a list of 3-5 nominees provided by the Judicial Nominating Commission. Nominees are then confirmed by the Senate. They serve life-long terms. There is a specialized division called the Judicial Tenure and Discipline Commission to deal with any complaints of judge misconduct.
The state is divided into four Superior Court districts in the five counties as such; Kent, Washington, and Newport; with Providence/Bristol. When appeals from District Court come to Superior Court, they are processed “de novo” meaning an entirely new trial is held. Superior Courts hear appeals from Probate Court, the Ethics Commission, the zoning board, and administrative agencies. Appeals from Superior Court go directly to the Supreme Court for review.
There are a few divisions within Superior Court to handle specific legal issues such as Gun Court, Business Court, Sexual Predator Court, and Domestic Violence Court. Superior Courts use arbitration and mediation heavily to help resolve issues less expensively and quicker. Thier Court-Annexed Arbitration Program is used for cases where the dollar amount is less than $100,000.