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
In re Mandy M.  
Date: October 29, 2020
Docket Number: 17-380

Justia Opinion Summary: The Supreme Court affirmed the decree of the family court terminating Father's parental rights to his daughter, holding that the the trial justice was not clearly wrong to conclude that there was parental unfitness and d...

State v. Doyle  
Date: July 8, 2020
Docket Number: 17-312

Justia Opinion Summary: The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court convicting Defendant of eighteen counts of financial fraud crimes and sentencing him to a total of seven years to serve in prison, with the balance of the eig...

In re Rylee A.  
Date: July 1, 2020
Docket Numbers: 18-173, 18-174

Justia Opinion Summary: The Supreme Court affirmed the decree of the family court terminating Respondents' parental rights to their daughter, holding that the findings of the family court justice were based on clear and convincing evidence and...

Thompson v. Millard Wire Co.  
Date: July 1, 2020
Docket Number: 18-4

Justia Opinion Summary: The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Appellate Division of the Workers' Compensation Court affirming the decree of the trial judge that Petitioner had failed to prove that he sustained a neck injury arising out...

Poletti v. Glynn  
Date: July 1, 2020
Docket Number: 19-109

Justia Opinion Summary: The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the superior court granting summary judgment in favor of Gonsalves-Pastore Realty, LLC and dismissing Mauro Poletti's negligence complaint, holding that summary judgment was proper...

Quattrucci v. Lombardi  
Date: June 30, 2020
Docket Number: 17-248

Justia Opinion Summary: The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court dismissing Plaintiffs' petition alleging that the City of Providence violated the terms of two superior court consent judgments entered in 2004 and seeking to...

Andrews v. Lombardi  
Date: June 30, 2020
Docket Numbers: 2017-255, 2017-256, 2017-257, 2017-260

Justia Opinion Summary: In this action challenging an ordinance passed in 2011 requiring retirees from the City's police and fire departments to enroll in the federal Medicare program upon reaching the age of eligibility instead of continuing t...

Andrews v. Lombardi  
Date: June 30, 2020
Docket Number: 17-262

Justia Opinion Summary: In this case challenging the City of Providence's ordinance suspending annual cost-of-living-adjustments (COLAs) for retired members of its police and fire departments until the pension fund achieved a seventy percent fu...

State v. Alvarado  
Date: June 30, 2020
Docket Number: 18-191

Justia Opinion Summary: The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court convicting Defendant on two counts of first-degree child molestation sexual assault, holding that the trial justice did not err in denying Defendant's motion...

State v. Lamontagne  
Date: June 30, 2020
Docket Number: 18-241

Justia Opinion Summary: The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court convicting Defendant of first-degree robbery and assault with a dangerous weapon in a dwelling with intent to rob, holding that the trial justice did not abus...

Polanco v. Lombardi  
Date: June 29, 2020
Docket Number: 18-198

Justia Opinion Summary: In this negligence case, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court for Defendants on all counts in Plaintiffs' complaint, holding that Plaintiffs' claims were filed after the three-year statute of lim...

In re Indiana M.  
Date: June 26, 2020
Docket Number: 18-187

Justia Opinion Summary: The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the family court denying, without prejudice, Mother's motion to intervene, as well as her motion to vacate or, in the alternative, to revoke a guardianship regarding her daughter,...

Vicente v. Pinto's Auto & Truck Repair, LLC  
Date: June 26, 2020
Docket Number: 19-181

Justia Opinion Summary: The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court in favor of Defendant, Pinto's Auto & truck Repair, LLC, in this action alleging that Defendant's repairs to Plaintiff's 2004 Freightliner Columbia were fault...

City of Cranston v. International Brotherhood of Police Officers, Local 301  
Date: June 23, 2020
Docket Number: 18-249

Justia Opinion Summary: The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court in favor of Defendants, including a Union and an Employee, and ordering the City of Cranston to arbitrate the Union's grievance filed on behalf of Employee af...

In re Adele B.  
Date: June 17, 2020
Docket Number: 16-87

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

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.