Rhode Island Court Records
How do Rhode Island Courts work?
The Supreme Court is the highest legal power in the state of Rhode Island. It has the ability to check decisions made by the lower Court of Appeals, weighing in on important questions regarding law, as well as any conflicts. In turn, the Court of Appeals carries out a similar function over the courts below it, but only when one party contests a decision made. These lower courts include the five superior or trial courts across Rhode Island’s five counties. Other tiers of court include Family Court, District Court, Workers’ Compensate Court, and the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal.
Civil Cases and Small Claims
Civil court and small claims court each deal with different types of cases in Rhode Island. For instance, the civil court exists to handle cases in which petitioners are looking for more than $200,000. There are close to 175,000 of these cases each and every year in Rhode Island. However, they are not limited to monetary cases, as the civil court also handles things such as name changes, restraining orders, and property disputes. On the other hand, small claims court deals with much lower claim values, namely, cases in which the petitioner is seeking under $10,000. This is not represented by counsel, and there are close to 100,000 of these cases each year in Rhode Island. They can include disputes over loans, deposits, repairs, warranties, and more. The small claims court also has the power to order defendants into an action, such as paying a fee.
Appeals and court limits
There are also a number of differences between the appeals processes and the court limits in civil and small claims courts. Only the defendant in a small claims cases can appeal the decision made, while either party can appeal in a civil matter. A person may not have a lawyer represent them, or file papers on their behalf in a small claims case, but both are allowed in a civil case. Pretrial discovery is also only allowed in a civil case and not a small claims matter. Small claims cases have a filing fee of between $30 and $100, and each party is then given 30-70 days to complete their case. Civil cases have filing fee of between $180 and $320, and each party is then given up to 120 days to complete their case.
Why are court records public?
The Rhode Island Access to Public Records Act was passed in 1979, with the most recent amendments coming in 2008. There were also big changes to the act in both 1991 and 1998. The act exists to ensure that Rhode Island residents can access public records at will. All records held by state or local government can be accessed and copied by members of the public. This helps to promote transparency and safeguard government accountability.
To access records:
Island Supreme Court
Licht Judicial Complex
250 Benefit Street
Providence, RI 02903