Knowledge — 10 months ago

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, or US Judicial System, 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.

US Judicial System

The United States is a federal system, with a central federal government and individual governments for each of the fifty states. Each of the states has its own complete judicial system (state courts) as does the United States itself (federal courts). The federal court system has three main levels: the Supreme Court of the United States - the final level of appeal in the federal system, the Circuit Courts - the first level of appeal, and the District Courts also called the Trial Court.

What is the court system like in Rhode Island?

The Rhode Island court system has an appellate structure, meaning that under certain circumstances, people can appeal to a higher court to get their 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

The Rhode Island Supreme Court first opened its doors in 1747, and is comprised of a Chief Justice along with four Associate 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. The Supreme Court Associate 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 Court also has the power to hear appeals from lower courts. That means that a person can see 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.

Rhode Island Judicial System, other 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.

Unified Judicial System, definition

Rhode Island, like many states in the US, is a state legally described as having a unified court system. A unified judicial system is a state judicial system wherein all courts within the state are ordered in a way that allows them to better execute uniformed justice throughout the state. The goal of this type of structure is to create better administration and organization within all of the judicial systems in a state. A unified court system is designed to help solve problems that arise when courts are separated, particularly on the local level.


Within a unified court system, there tends to be a single database of records, used by all courts. This has been made much easier through the help of the internet because the records can be accessed remotely, eliminating the need to actually go to the court where the records are held.


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