Rhode Island Supreme Court Decisions

Founded in 1747, the Rhode Island Supreme Court holds jurisdiction over appeals that involve any legal or constitutional questions. It also oversees the practice of law in Rhode Island, including admission to the state bar and discipline for attorneys and judges who engage in misconduct. Five justices serve on the Rhode Island Supreme Court, and their tenure lasts for life. This is similar to federal judges but different from most justices on state supreme courts. Rhode Island does not impose a mandatory retirement age on its judges. In 2012, a Stanford University study found that the Rhode Island Supreme Court was the eighth-most liberal state supreme court in the U.S.

When a vacancy arises on the Court, the Judicial Nominating Commission must develop a list of three to five candidates. It will present that list to the Governor of Rhode Island, who will appoint one of the candidates. Any appointments are subject to the approval of the Rhode Island House of Representatives and the Rhode Island Senate. A justice may face removal only if they are impeached by the House of Representatives and convicted in a trial in the Senate.

The Rhode Island Supreme Court has decided several cases that have influenced the evolution of key legal principles. For example, a 1786 decision on the validity of paper currency found that the actions of the legislature were unconstitutional. This helped lay the foundation for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule that courts have the authority to strike down legislative actions on constitutional grounds. For another example, a 1974 decision shaped the development of contract law by ruling that a service contract does not require additional consideration to be modified. In 1995, the Rhode Island Supreme Court issued a decision in a tort case that set out an influential definition of battery.

Browse Opinions From the Rhode Island Supreme Court

Recent Decisions From the Rhode Island Supreme Court
Henry v. Media General Operations, Inc.  
Date: July 8, 2021
Docket Number: 18-169

Justia Opinion Summary: The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court in favor of Defendants in this case involving an allegedly defamatory report that was broadcast on the evening news, holding that the hearing justice did not...

State v. Gonzalez  
Date: July 2, 2021
Docket Number: 19-67

Justia Opinion Summary: The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court convicting Defendant of first-degree murder, assault with intent to commit a felony, and two counts of discharging a firearm while committing a crime of viole...

State v. Resiner  
Date: June 30, 2021
Docket Number: 18-27

Justia Opinion Summary: The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court finding Defendant guilty of possession of child pornography and sentencing him to a suspended term of incarceration, with probation, and ordering him to meet s...

Terrapin Development, LLC v. Irene M. O'Malley Revocable Trust  
Date: June 30, 2021
Docket Number: 18-346

Justia Opinion Summary: The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court denying Plaintiff's claim for specific performance of a purchase and sale agreement (PSA) in favor of Defendants - Irene M. O'Malley Revocable Trust and John...

Commerce Park Realty, LLC,v. HR2-A Corp.  
Date: June 30, 2021
Docket Number: 19-468

Justia Opinion Summary: In this case involving complex and protracted litigation regarding multiple high-interest loans between commercial borrowers and lenders the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court granting partial summ...

Kyros v. R.I. Department of Health  
Date: June 30, 2021
Docket Number: 20-104

Justia Opinion Summary: The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment and order of the superior court reversing a decision and order of the Rhode Island Department of Health (DOH) Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline (the Board) that required Pl...

Commerce Park Realty, LLC v. HR2-A Corp.  
Date: June 30, 2021
Docket Number: 20-33

Justia Opinion Summary: In this case involving complex litigation surrounding usurious loans between commercial borrowers and letters the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the superior court granting summary judgment in favor of Plaintiffs...

Kumble v. Voccola  
Date: June 30, 2021
Docket Numbers: 2019-49, 2019-47

Justia Opinion Summary: In this litigation between the beneficiaries and trustees of two trusts the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court granting the trustees' petition for their services and expenses, including attorneys'...

Beagan v. Rhode Island Department of Labor & Training, Board of Review  
Date: June 29, 2021
Docket Number: 19-11

Justia Opinion Summary: The Supreme Court quashed the order of the district court that denied Appellant's request for attorneys' fees pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws 28-44-57(c) after Appellant successfully appealed a denial of unemployment benefits...

State v. Rivera  
Date: June 29, 2021
Docket Number: 19-196

Justia Opinion Summary: The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court convicting Defendant of one count of first-degree child molestation sexual assault and two counts of second-degree child molestation sexual assault, holding t...

Belmore v. Petterutti  
Date: June 29, 2021
Docket Number: 19-490

Justia Opinion Summary: The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendant in this personal injury case, holding that, contrary to precedent, the hearing justice passed upon an issue tha...

State v. Hampton-Boyd  
Date: June 28, 2021
Docket Number: 19-100

Justia Opinion Summary: The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of one count of first-degree robbery and other firearm-related offenses, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below. On appeal, Defendant argued that the t...

Doe v. Brown University  
Date: June 28, 2021
Docket Number: 19-167

Justia Opinion Summary: The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court dismissing Plaintiff's complaint against Defendants - Brown University and two of its officials - seeking damages and equitable relief arising out of Defendan...

Dextraze v. Bernard  
Date: June 28, 2021
Docket Number: 20-48

Justia Opinion Summary: The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court denying Defendant's motions for judgment as a matter of law and for a new trial and from the judgment in favor of Plaintiffs in this case arising from an assa...

State v. Vidot  
Date: June 28, 2021
Docket Numbers: 20-84, 20-18

Justia Opinion Summary: The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of one count of second-degree murder and one count of discharging a firearm during a crime of violence, holding that the trial justice did not err in failing to grant a m...

The opinions published on Justia State Caselaw are sourced from individual state court sites. These court opinions may not be the official published versions, and you should check your local court rules before citing to them. We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this site, or the information linked to on the state site.