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
State v. Murray  
Date: October 16, 2019
Docket Numbers: 16-132, 17-400

Justia Opinion Summary: The Supreme Court affirmed the superior court judgment adjudicating Defendant a probation violator and a superior court order denying Defendant's motion to terminate imprisonment, holding that the hearing justices did no...

Hebert v. City of Woonsocket  
Date: July 2, 2019
Docket Number: 16-77

Justia Opinion Summary: The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court that granted a preliminary injunction in favor of Plaintiffs restraining the City of Woonsocket from changing the terms of Plaintiffs' retiree health insurance...

Branson v. Louttit  
Date: June 28, 2019
Docket Numbers: 17-149, 17-150

Justia Opinion Summary: In this dispute among siblings regarding amendments to an inter vivos trust and gifts of interest in a family limited partnership established by Augusta Hathaway the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior co...

Heneault v. Lantini  
Date: June 27, 2019
Docket Number: 18-195

Justia Opinion Summary: The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the superior court's denial of Defendants' motion for a new trial after a jury found in favor of Plaintiff on his complaint alleging conversion and breach of contrac...

Rollingwood Acres, Inc. v. Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management  
Date: June 24, 2019
Docket Number: 15-328

Justia Opinion Summary: The Supreme Court quashed the judgment of the superior court upholding the decision of the Administrative Adjudication Division (AAD) of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) denying Plaintiffs' r...

DiCarlo v. State  
Date: June 21, 2019
Docket Number: 16-119

Justia Opinion Summary: The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court denying Petitioner's appeal from a decision of a drug court magistrate upholding a determination by the Sex Offender Board of Review classifying Petitioner as...

Blais v. Rhode Island Airport Corp.  
Date: June 20, 2019
Docket Number: 17-326

Justia Opinion Summary: The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court reversing the Rhode Island Airport Corporation's (RIAC) 2015 order prohibiting Plaintiff from entering the North Central State Airport, holding that RIAC was...

Boudreau v. Automatic Temperature Controls, Inc.  
Date: June 20, 2019
Docket Number: 18-91

Justia Opinion Summary: The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants on Plaintiff's complaint alleging various claims under, inter alia, the Rhode Island Wiretap Act, state priva...

JHRW, LLC v. Seaport Studios, Inc.  
Date: June 19, 2019
Docket Number: 17-313

Justia Opinion Summary: The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the superior court granting summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff as to Plaintiff's claim seeking injunctive relief for Defendants' alleged trespass and permanently enjoining Defe...

State v. Najera  
Date: June 19, 2019
Docket Number: 18-151

Justia Opinion Summary: The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court convicting Defendant of assault with a dangerous weapon and malicious injury to property, holding that the trial justice did not err in denying Defendant's mo...

In re Violet G.  
Date: June 19, 2019
Docket Number: 18-24

Justia Opinion Summary: The Supreme Court affirmed the decree of the family court that terminated Mother's parental rights with respect to her daughter, holding that the family court justice's findings were not clearly wrong, and the justice di...

Rhode Island American Federation of Teachers/Retired Local 8037 v. Johnston School Committee  
Date: June 19, 2019
Docket Number: 18-51

Justia Opinion Summary: In this dispute over the cost of annual premiums for post-retirement life insurance benefits the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court entering summary judgment in favor of Plaintiffs - the Rhode Isla...

Brindle v. Rhode Island Department of Labor & Training  
Date: June 18, 2019
Docket Number: 16-324

Justia Opinion Summary: The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court affirming a decision of the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training (DLT) that denied Petitioners' wage and hour claims against Delta Airline, Inc., hol...

La Gondola, Inc. v. City of Providence  
Date: June 17, 2019
Docket Number: 16-282

Justia Opinion Summary: In this case concerning the award of a concessions contract for concessions at a public park in the City of Providence the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court in favor of Defendants - the City, the...

Larkin v. Arthurs  
Date: June 17, 2019
Docket Numbers: 17-56, 17-183

Justia Opinion Summary: In this dispute surrounding the distribution of the assets of the parties' deceased mother the Supreme Court affirmed the judgments of the superior court with respect to the substance of two orders of the probate court,...

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.