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HOW DO I SEARCH RHODE ISLAND COURT RECORDS?

Rhode Island Access to Public Records Act (APRA) allows the citizens to inspect and copy the state's court records. Different bodies under the judicial branch maintain court records. These court records are available in both paper and electronic format. To view available Rhode Island court records, citizens may consider one the following ways

  • Visit the local courthouse and request to inspect the paper records
  • Visit the local courthouse to view the electronic copies of available court records on the public access computer
  • Remotely access electronic court records via the state's judicial branch website
  • Visit the Judicial records center at 5 Hill Street, Pawtucket, RI 02860 to access archive paper records

Note, court records deemed confidential or sealed by law or court order may not be available for public inspection or copying. Copying available court records may cost a certain fee depending on the volume of the request. To determine the location of any courthouse in the state, use the courts' addresses page on the Rhode Island Judiciary Branch website.

HOW TO GET RHODE ISLAND COURT RECORDS ONLINE FOR FREE

Court records are not provided for free but can be obtained at an inexpensive fee. Electronic court records provided online is one of such inexpensive means of accessing case information. Where copies of these electronic records may not suffice for legal requirements, the requestor may visit the courthouse where the action was filed for a copy of the official court record.

The Rhode Island court system only gives the public remote access to the dockets of its Supreme Court and trial courts (and not the case information). Requestors may access these dockets via the Public eService Access. To access necessary case information, the requestor may have to visit the local courthouse to use the public computer terminal at the Clerk of Court's office.

Court records are considered open to the public and are usually accessible through government sources, though they may also be accessed through third-party websites. These websites offer an easier method in most cases, as they are not limited by geographical area, or by limitations in search engine technology. They can often serve as a starting point when looking for a specific record, or multiple records. Interested parties must usually provide:

  • The name of the person listed in the record. This may not apply to records on juveniles.
  • The assumed or known location of the person listed in the record. This will most often be a city, county, or state.

Because they are not government-sponsored, record availability on third party websites may vary when compared to government sources.

HOW DOES THE RHODE ISLAND COURT SYSTEM WORK?

The Rhode court system consists of the Supreme Court and the State Trial Courts. As the highest court of law in the state, the Supreme Court is charged with the administration of the court system. This duty is performed through the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court handles appeals coming from the Trial Courts.

The State Trial Court consists of the Superior Court, District Court, Family Court, Workers Compensation Court, and the Traffic Tribunal. The Superior Court is the state's court of general jurisdiction while the other trial courts have limited jurisdictions.

Four out of the six Rhode Island courts have a mediation program. These courts include the Supreme Court, Superior Court, Family Court, and Workers Compensation Courts. Annually, the State Trial Court handles over 200,000 cases, while the Supreme Court handles about 380 appeals.

HOW DOES THE RHODE ISLAND SUPERIOR COURT WORK?

The Superior Court of Rhode Island in its adjudicating powers has general jurisdiction in jury and non-jury trials of:

  • All felony proceedings
  • Civil cases (where the amount in controversy exceeds $10,000)
  • Equity matters.

It shares a concurrent jurisdiction with the District Court on civil matters where the monetary disputes are between $5000- $10,000. 

The Superior Court also has extended jurisdiction in court-annexed arbitration program that hears civil cases where there is $100,000 or less at issue. In addition to this, the Superior Court has special sessions for business, gun, drug, sexual predator, and domestic violence cases.

All appeals from the Superior Court go to the Supreme Court. However, the Superior Court has the power to hear appeals coming from the District Court in criminal and civil cases to be retried (de novo). The Superior Court also hears appeals from local municipal and probate courts; as well as appeals from an agency, zoning board, and ethics commission board. The Superior Court also shares concurrent jurisdiction with the Supreme court in the issuance of writs of habeas corpus and writs of mandamus.

Rhode Island has five counties divided into four Superior Court jurisdictions. There are 22 judges and five magistrates serving these Superior Courts. These judicial officers are recommended by the judicial nominating commission to be appointed by the governor upon confirmation by the senate. The presiding justice of the Superior Court as the administrative judge is charged with the administration of the Superior Court.

HOW DOES THE RHODE ISLAND DISTRICT COURT WORK?

The Rhode Island District Court is a court of limited jurisdiction. The District Court reserves an exclusive jurisdiction in all civil cases where the subject of disputes is under $5,000. Whereas it shares concurrent jurisdiction with the Superior Court in monetary disputes not exceeding $10,000. Its jurisdiction over cases expands to:

  • Small claims ($2,500 or less)
  • Violations of municipal ordinances
  • Misdemeanors (when the right to jury trial has been waived)

Appeals from the District court goes to the Superior court, to be tried de novo, that is, as a new trial. If any defendant in the District Court has a preference for a jury trial, such a case would be transferred to the Superior Court.

A division of the District Court is the Veterans Treatment Court. The Veterans' Court helps with the rehabilitation of participants. This is done by providing tools and skills to help integrate the veterans back into society while maintaining a productive and law-abiding lifestyle.

HOW DOES THE RHODE ISLAND FAMILY COURT WORK?

The Family Court is a domestic relations division of the Superior Court. The Family Court has offices in three counties. It is staffed by a Chief Judge supported by 11 Associate Judges, and a General Magistrate supported by eight Magistrates. The Family Court as a court of limited jurisdiction has the authority to hear the following matters:

  • Petitions for divorce and any motions in conjunction with divorce proceedings,
  • Petitions for separate maintenance and complaints regarding support for parents and children.
  • Juvenile (delinquent, wayward, dependent, neglected, abused, or mentally deficient or mentally disordered children)
  • Adoptions,
  • Child marriages,
  • Paternity proceedings

As part of its duty to safeguard a co-operative and respectful mode of settling a dispute, the family court offers a free court-based mediation program.

HOW DOES THE RHODE ISLAND WORKERS' COMPENSATION COURT WORK?

The court has jurisdiction to hear all employment disputes that have to do with worker's compensation between an employer and employee. The Workers' Compensation Court has an appellate division which has to conduct an intermediate review of any decision reached at the end of the trial. The court's appellate division is made up of a three-man panel to be appointed by the Chief Judge of the District Court. Appeals from the appellate division go to the Supreme Court

The court consist of a Chief Judge and nine associate judges. Judges of the Workers' Compensation Court are nominated by the Rhode Island Judicial Nominating Commission. A recommendation is made to the governor, whose appointment is to be approved by either the Rhode Island Senate or the House of Representatives.

HOW DOES THE RHODE ISLAND TRAFFIC TRIBUNAL WORK?

The Traffic Tribunal has jurisdiction over most traffic offenses, like civil traffic offenses. The tribunal also shares concurrent jurisdiction with municipal courts for lesser traffic offenses.  The Tribunal also has jurisdiction over certain departments of Environmental Management Offices. The Tribunal has an appellate division that hears the Traffic Tribunal, Municipal Court, and Registry Of Motor Vehicle appeals.

The Traffic Tribunal is made up of eight judicial officers; one chief magistrate, an administrative magistrate, four magistrates, and two associate judges.

WHAT IS RHODE ISLAND APPELLATE COURT?

The Rhode Island Supreme court is the court of last resort. The Supreme Court has a final revisory and appellate jurisdiction over all law and equity questions. In its rights, the Supreme Court exercises supervisory power over the state courts. The Supreme Court also has a responsibility to provide advisory to legislative and executive branches in any issue where there is a concern to the constitutionality of legislation. In addition to this, the Supreme Court must regulate admission to the state bar and determine disciplinary issues.

The Supreme Court consist of a Chief Justice and four justices. The Governor with the assistance of the Judicial Nominating Commission and approval of the Statehouse and Senate appoint new justices. The Justices of the Supreme Court serve life terms upon been confirmed. The Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court is nominated also by the governor to be confirmed by the Rhode Island General Assembly.

All five justices of the Supreme court sit on the panel to hear an appeal, that is en banc.

HOW MANY CASES DOES THE RHODE ISLAND SYSTEM HANDLE ANNUALLY?

Over 200,000 cases are filed in the Rhode Island court system annually. There was a 0.3% increase in the number of total filings in 2017 (from 203,033 cases) to the total for 2018 (203, 781 filings). In its fiscal year of 2018, Rhode Island Superior Courts recorded 18,043 filings and 11,489 dispositions while the Family Court recorded 15,717 filings and 12,880 dispositions.

In the same year, the District Courts recorded a total filing of 64,086 cases while the courts disposed of 59, 538 cases. For the other two trial courts; the Worker's Compensation Court recorded a total of 7,861 new cases and the disposition of 7,728 cases while the Traffic Tribunal recorded a total of 97,694 new cases and the disposition of 69,741 cases.

Still, in the 2018 fiscal year, the Rhode Island Supreme Court recorded a total filing of 380 appeal cases from the state trial courts and the Court made 399 dispositions

Rhode Island Supreme Court Caseloads Fiscal years 2014 Through 2018

FY2014 FY2015 FY2016 FY2017 FY2018
Criminal 60 37 25 32 33
Civil 160 132 149 152 128
Miscellaneous 58 138 184 249 199
Certiorari 62 69 - -
Total Filings 340 376 358 433 380
Dispositions 374 411 352 442 399

Data provided by Rhode Island Judiciary

Rhode Island Superior Courts Caseloads Fiscal years 2014 Through 2018

FY2014 FY2015 FY2016 FY2017 FY2018
Caseload
Felony 5,506 5,841 4,989 5,072 5,590
Misdemeanor 282 294 363 327 429
Ordinances and Violations - - - 2 15
Civil 8,702 7,994 8,387 8,765 12,019
Total Filings 14,490 14,129 13,739 14,166 18,043
Dispositions
Felony

5,126

5,620 5,221 4,639 4,942
Misdemeanor

299

281 348 300 407
Ordinances and Violations

-

- - 7 12
Civil

6,253

5,777 9,184 5,743 6,138
Total Dispositions 11,678 11,678 14,753 10,689 11,489

Data provided by Rhode Island Judiciary

Rhode Island Family Courts Caseloads Fiscal years 2014 Through 2018

F72014 FY2015 FY2017 FY2018
Caseload
Juvenile Delinquent 3,582 3,646 3,637 3,526
Dependency 1,368 1,384 1,607 1,431
Termination of Parental Right 225 342 273 305
Civil Violations - - 118 119
Adoption/Guardianship 457 491 513 505
Violation 706 544 208 87
Other 65 169 181 178
Domestic/Other Divorce 3,432 3,455 3,401 3,210
Abuse 2,128 2,092 2,040 2,056
Miscellaneous 882 890 904 863
Child Support 3461 2,844 2,726 1,646
Adult Criminal - - 201 212
Total Filings 16,486 15,857 16,007 15,717
Dispositions
Juvenile Delinquent 3,468 3,483 3,333 3,737
Dependency 1,325 1,262 1,135 1,523
Termination of Parental Right 253 260 287 280
Civil Violations - - 115 190
Adoption/Guardianship 453 578 484 574
Violation 696 441 302 99
Other 38 100 202 16
Domestic/Other Divorce 4,208 3,136 3,385 3,294
Abuse 1,992 2,172 1,380 1,166
Miscellaneous - - 1,509 1,646
Child support - - - -
Adult criminal - - 186 204
Total Dispositions 12,433 15,857 12,317 12,880

Data provided by Rhode Island Judiciary

Rhode Island District Courts Caseloads Fiscal years 2014 Through 2015 to 2017 Through 2018

FY2014 FY2015 FY2016 FY2017 FY2018
Caseload
Misdemeanors 25,409 24,173 21,685 15,689 16,842
Felonies 6,849 6,694 6,969 7,164 7,263
Civil Violations - - - 7,682 7,332
Violations - - - 179 228
Ordinance - - - 58 45
Small Claims 12,029 4,578 3,741 3,493 2,856
Civil 21,806 27,613 22,508 28,368 27,707
Abuse 876 926 910 1,032 991
Administrative Appeal 169 128 132 158 183
Menta Health Hearings 492 546 500 501 639
Total Filings 67,635 64,658 56,445 64,324 64,086
Dispositions
Misdemeanors 23,842 23,064 21,372 13,959 16,034
Felonies 4,957 4,747 4,490 5,192 6,306
Civil Violations - - - 6,502 7,512
Violations - - - 105 40
Ordinance - - - 55 42
Small Claims 13,483 4,891 4,296 4,652 2,601
Civil 19,018 20,349 21,806 26,654 25,296
Abuse 774 777 827 929 941
Administrative Appeal 185 129 126 138 164
Menta Health Hearings - 303 486 464 602
Total Filings 62,259 54,260 53,403 58,650 59,538

Data provided by Rhode Island Judiciary

Rhode Island Workers Compensation Courts Caseloads Fiscal years 2014 Through 2018

FY2014 FY2015 FY2016 FY2017 FY2018
Caseload
Employee Petitions to Review 2,222 1,911 2,153 2,012 2,305
Employer Petitions to Review 1,340 1,445 1,409 1,311 1,303
Lump Sum Settlement 783 866 924 904 862
Miscellaneous 122 82 67 117 109
Original Petitions 2,405 2,302 2,235 2,316 2,404
Petitions for Medical 112 79 97 77 95
Petitions to Enforce 703 709 731 726 783
Total Filings 7,687 7,394 7,616 7,463 7,861
Dispositions
Employee Petitions to Review

2,149

1,983 2,067 2,039 2,286
Employer Petitions to Review

1,283

1,397 1,474 1,319 1,296
Lump Sum Settlement

763

948 936 890 852
Miscellaneous

125

99 69 105 104
Original Petitions

2,296

2,359 2,173 2,352 2,348
Petitions for Medical

114

74 99 87 92
Petitions to Enforce

709

712 721 723 750
Total Dispositions 7,439 7,572 7,539 7,515 7,728

Data provided by Rhode Island Judiciary

Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal Caseloads Fiscal years 2014 Through 2018

Traffic Tribunal Violations FY2014 FY2015 FY2016 FY2017 FY2018
Insurance 10,658 10,640 9,932 9,951 9,094
Marijuana 2,951 2,559 2,438 2,516 2,316
Breathalyzer refusals 1,868 2,303 2,079 2,690 2,658
Speeding 29,484 24,960 26,926 25,290 19,301
Other violations 61,728 52,640 59,454 60,193 64,325
Total violations 106,689 93,102 100,829 100,640 97,694
Total summons disposed 88,697 79,647 79,224 71,820 69,741

Data provided by Rhode Island Judiciary

First names in Rhode Island