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Rhode Island Judicial System

by Eric C.

Rhode Island Judicial System, Judicial System

Rhode Island Judicial System and Court System: How Does it Work?

The Judiciary is responsible for dispensing justice according to the Constitution. Rhode Island has its own State Judiciary as well as two Federal Courts operating within the State.

What is the court system like in Rhode Island?

The courts of Rhode Island have an appellate structure, meaning that under certain circumstances, people can appeal to a higher court to get their precious verdict overturned. The highest court within the State Judiciary is the Supreme Court, also known as the court of last resort.

Other than this, the State has various other courts such as the Superior Court, the Family Court, the District Court, and others. The two Federal Courts operating in Rhode Island include the District of Long Island Court along with the District of Long Island Bankruptcy Court. All appeals from the federal courts are taken to the First Circuit Court of Appeals.

Rhode Island Supreme Court: First opening its doors in 1747, the Rhode Island Supreme Court comprises of a Chief Justice along with four other justices. All the judges of the Rhode Island Supreme Court hold their titles for as long as they are alive.

Rhode Island Judicial System

To be a Chief Justice, a judge must first be nominated by the Governor of the State. The nomination is then confirmed by a General Assembly of the State after which the Chief Justice is officially sworn in. Supreme Court justices are also selected through nomination. A Judicial Nominating Commission presents three to five names to the Governor, after which the judges are selected and appointed to the State's Supreme Court.

Matters that are either legal or constitutional fall within the appellate jurisdiction of the Rhode Island Supreme Court. The Supreme Court also regulates the entry process into the state’s bar. They also have jurisdiction over handling disciplinary cases.

Rhode Island Superior Court: The Superior Court has general jurisdiction in handling civil cases amounting to more than $10,000, criminal cases and cases dealing with equity within the state. There are four judicial districts in Rhode Island, their operations encompassing all five of the state’s counties.

Civil cases where the dispute is over an amount within $5000 and $10,000 see the Superior Court operating simultaneously with the Rhode Island District Courts. The Superior Courts also have the power to hear appeals from lower courts. That means that a person or people can get a verdict from a district court changed should the Superior Court see any mistake in the prior legal handling of the case.

Judicial System

Rhode Island District Courts: The Rhode Island District courts try cases that involve criminal behavior and civil matters amounting to no more than $10,000. Also known as a trial court with limited jurisdiction, there are no jury trials within the district courts. The courts are divided into four divisions – the Second Division, Third Division, Fourth and Sixth Division. There is a Chief Judge along with other associate judges within the district courts.

Other than these, other courts have limited jurisdiction within the state, such as the Rhode Island Family Court or the Rhode Island Worker's Compensation Court. The Family Courts have jurisdiction over cases dealing with domestic issues involving children. It includes the Truancy Court, Domestic Violence Court, and the Juvenile Drug Court. Similarly, the Workers’ Compensation Court has jurisdiction over matters relating to compensation for workers.

Rhode Island also has a Traffic Tribunal whose jurisdiction lies with hearing traffic-related cases within the state. They also keep a record of driving accidents within the state along with tickets and violations. These separate jurisdictions within the Trial Courts ensure that cases are tried in an efficient and organized way.


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