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Are Rhode Island Court Records Public?

The Rhode Island Access to Public Records Act of 1979 authorizes individuals to inspect and copy court records in the state. The law was notably amended in 1991, 1998, and 2008 to guarantee Rhode Island residents access to public records in general, including court records.

However, the Rhode Island Access to Public Records Act creates room for court records that may be exempted from public access due to the sensitivity of the information they carry or as provided by a court order or provision of the law. Likewise, sealed records and confidential documents are not available to the public. Such records are only accessible if the person requesting them is directly involved in the case, such as a party to the case, an attorney, or a self-represented defendant.

How Do I Find Court Records in Rhode Island?

The first step to take when trying to obtain court records in Oregon is to verify the court where the requested court records were initially filed and submit a record request at the court clerk’s office. The court clerks are the record custodians of the courts where they operate. Their primary duty is to generate, maintain, and provide access to official court records upon request. Record requests can be submitted in person, online, or via any media that the court clerk permits. Individuals can obtain the contact information and location of a court of interest by searching the “courts” portal on the Rhode Island Judiciary website.  

In-person, requests should be made at the court clerk’s office in the court where the case was filed. Requestors may be required to draw up request applications in written form or, if available, complete request forms and submit them in-person at the court clerk’s office. In the request application, specify the requested court records and the number of copies to be produced if copies will be made.

For online requests, individuals can remotely access Rhode Island courts records through its public portal. The online public portal is open to the general public, but they may only access the court’s register of actions or docket. Requesting parties must have registered accounts to access case records on this platform.

Furthermore, interested persons should email requests to the Judicial Technology Center (JTC) at helpdesk@courts.ri.gov and attach the Request for Access to Case Information form and a signed Subscription Agreement included in the form. The JTC will reply to the email with additional instructions.

Considered open to citizens of the United States, public records are available through traditional, government sources and third-party websites and organizations. In many cases, third-party websites make the search easier as they are not limited geographically or by technological limitations. They are considered a good place to start when looking for a specific record or multiple records. To gain access to these records, interested parties must typically provide:

  • The name of the person listed in the record. Juveniles are typically exempt from this search method. 
  • The last known or assumed location of the person listed in the record. This includes cities, parishes, and states. 

While third-party sites offer such services, they are not government-sponsored entities, and record availability may vary on these sites compared to government sources. 

How Do Rhode Island Courts Work?

Rhode Island courts are headed by the Supreme Court, which possesses directorial and supervisory authority over the judicial system, including the state bar by setting rules to be followed by other state courts. The Supreme Court also has appellate jurisdiction over all matters in the state. It carries out this function by following a fixed set of rules that directs the appellate procedure when it reviews appealed cases. The Rhode Island Supreme Court membership consists of four associate justices and one chief justice. The justices are first nominated by the Judicial Nominating Commission and approved by the House of Representatives and the Senate. Then, the state governor appoints the justices from the nominated persons.

Rhode Island has four Superior Courts, which are the state’s trial courts of record. These courts have exclusive authority to hold hearings for jury and non-jury trials for criminal and civil matters. It has a Presiding Justice who serves as the administrative judge of the court. The four Superior Courts have a presiding justice, assisted by 21 associate justices and five magistrates. Other Superior Court members include the administrator, the jury commissioner, and a Superior Court clerk, present in each Superior Court.

Below the Rhode Island Superior Courts are the courts of limited jurisdiction, including the District Courts, Family Courts, and Workers’ Compensation Courts. The Traffic Tribunal, Municipal Courts, and Probate Courts. These courts have authority over specific matters within their jurisdiction. In addition, the Rhode Island judicial system has specialty courts, also known as problem-solving courts. These courts are designed to provide an alternative method of administering justice to eligible persons in the state. Examples include the Drug Courts and Veteran Treatment Courts.

Furthermore, the Rhode Island Judiciary has a Commission on Judicial Tenure and Discipline, responsible for handling complaints against Justices. Residents are authorized to file complaints and allegations. The Commission is mandated to evaluate and investigate these filed complaints where Justices are accused of going against the Code of Judicial Conduct. Complaints are not limited to a judge’s willful misconduct; it may also include any event that hinders their optimum performance.

 

Rhode Island Court Structure

What Are Civil Court and Small Claims in Rhode Island?

In Rhode Island, small claims are cases where the parties involved claim damages of $2,500 or less based on a contract, a retail sale, or service. These cases are resolved in the District Courts according to the District Court Rules of Small Claims Procedure. A small claims case is structured to dispense immediate and final justice. The filing fee for a small claims case is $75.75. A small claims court can only issue a judgment for money and not for other complaints. For example, the court cannot issue an order to stop a person from making noise, finish a job, or move a fence.

To file a case in a small claims court, an individual may complete and submit the forms on the website of the District Courts’ small claims section. These forms can be found under “Forms” on the top right side of the website.

The days and time the District Courts in Rhode Island hear small claims are as follows:

Murray Judicial Complex
2nd Division District Court
45 Washington Square
Newport, Rhode Island 02840-2913
(401) 841-8350
Monday 9:00 a.m. 

Noel Judicial Complex
3rd Division District Court
222 Quaker Lane
Warwick, Rhode Island 02886-0107
(401) 822-6750
Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday 9:00 a.m. 

McGrath Judicial Complex
4th Division District Court
4800 Tower Hill Road
Wakefield, Rhode Island 02879-2239
(401) 782-4131
Monday 9:00 a.m.

Garrahy Judicial Complex
6th Division District Court
One Dorrance Plaza
Providence, Rhode Island 02903-2719
(401) 458-5401
Thursday 1:30 p.m.

The District Court has exclusive jurisdiction over all civil actions at law where the amount in dispute is not more than $5,000. The court also has concurrent original jurisdiction with the Superior Court over civil actions at law in which the amount in dispute is above $5,000 but does not exceed $10,000.

What Are Appeals and Court Limits in Rhode Island?

Appeals are petitions from individuals filed in Rhode Island appellate courts to review a lower court’s rulings. The Supreme Court of Rhode Island is the main appellate court in the state, although its Superior Courts also perform appellate functions. Both appellate courts hear appeal cases within their jurisdiction. An appellant must file a notice of appeal within 20 days from the entry of the order, judgment or decree appealed at the trial court’s clerk’s office, not the Supreme Court’s clerk’s office. An appellant may obtain the form for filing a notice of appeal at the trial court’s clerk’s office.

Refer to the Rhode Island Appellate Procedure for more information on the appellate procedure in the state.

How Do I Find My Case Number in Rhode Island?

Case numbers are sets of individually allocated alphanumeric codes that identify unique information on each filed case, such as the court that filed the case and the year a case was filed. Case numbers come in handy when searching for case information or attempting to track a case. It also eases the process of collating and accessing case information. This is quite straightforward because each case has a unique case number. Hence, time that would have been wasted while scanning through diverse search results generated during a name search is conserved.

Parties to the case, self-represented defendants, and the general public online can use the public portal to get case numbers; however, they must have registered accounts to access this portal. Interested persons can search the public portal online with the full name of the party to the case to find a case number.

Individuals may also request the case numbers at the court clerk’s office where the case was filed. However, the court clerk provides specific details on the case that was filed to facilitate the search for case numbers.

Can You Look up Court Cases in Rhode Island?

Rhode Island courts allow public access to case information online through the court’s website or in-person at the computer terminals located in the court clerks’ offices. These computer terminals can be used to look up cases during the court’s regular business hours by providing details on the desired case. However, sealed or confidential court records are not open to public access.

Does Rhode Island Hold Remote Trials?

Following the coronavirus pandemic’s emergence, the Rhode Island Judiciary system has been compelled to adjust the courts’ business operations and implement emergency measures mandated by Executive Order 20-02 on March 9, 2020. This also includes the guidelines provided by the Rhode Island Department of Health and the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These guidelines were designed to significantly restrict crowds, encourage social distancing, limit in-person hearing, and other proceedings while performing its duties.

Rhode Island presently holds remote hearings for most cases. However, critical matters or proceedings that cannot be conducted remotely are handled in-person, in compliance with coronavirus safety protocols. All in-person pretrial hearings are on hold until at least January 12, 2021, and all small claims matters are suspended until at least February 1, 2021. Rhode Island courts also encourage electronic filings to the court clerks’ email to reduce in-person filings at the court clerk’s office.

Each court has developed specific procedures to reduce traffic at the courthouses, and this can be found on the Rhode Island Judiciary website.

What Is the Rhode Island Supreme Court? 

The Rhode Island Supreme Court is the state’s highest court with the final word on all questions of law and equity in the state. The Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction over cases arising from the state’s lower courts and supervisory authority over the state’s judicial budget and other courts’ affairs in the state. It is responsible to the Rhode Island state government’s executive and legislative branches, particularly on matters of the legislation’s constitutionality. The Supreme Court is also authorized to issue prerogative writs.

The Supreme Court presides over the Disciplinary Board established to protect the public and maintain the judiciary’s integrity, while also handling disciplinary matters for erring attorneys and investigating complaints through the Disciplinary Board’s investigative arm. The Board comprises 12 members, including eight attorneys and four persons from the general public. The contact details and address of the Rhode Island Supreme Court is listed below:

Rhode Island Supreme Court
Licht Judicial Complex
Seventh Floor
250 Benefit Street
Providence, RI 02903
Phone: (401) 222-3272

Rhode Island Superior Courts?

Rhode Island Superior Courts are referred to as the state’s court of general jurisdiction and trial courts of record. Superior Courts in Rhode Island have exclusive authority to hold hearings for jury trials. It is authorized to preside over both criminal and civil matters, using jury and non-jury trial methods. The Superior Courts exercise original jurisdiction over civil cases where the amount in dispute is between $5,000 and $10,000 or more than $10,000. This also includes civil cases with dissent over the title, interests, and rights to real estate. The courts may also exercise original jurisdiction over felony cases occurring within the state and matters of equity.  

The Superior Court may also exercise concurrent jurisdiction with the Rhode Island Supreme Court in issuing writs of mandamus and habeas corpus. The court accepts appeals from District, Probate and Municipal Courts rulings. It also hears appeals from state boards and commissions, including the Zoning Board and Ethics Commission. State and local police officers may appeal to the Rhode Island Superior Court to review a disciplinary action imposed by the police department’s chief.

Superior Court appeals are directed to the Rhode Island Supreme Court because the Rhode Island judicial system does not provide any intermediate appellate courts. There are four judicial districts, divided among the five counties in Rhode Island. Each judicial district has a Superior Court, with one of the courts having territorial jurisdiction in Providence and Bristol counties.

The contact details and addresses of the Rhode Island Superior Courts are listed below:

Providence and Bristol County Superior Court
Licht Judicial Complex
250 Benefit Street
Providence, RI 02903
Phone: (401) 222-3250

Washington County Superior Court
McGrath Judicial Complex
4800 Tower Hill Road
Wakefield, RI 02879
Phone: (401) 782-4121

Kent County Superior Court
Noel Judicial Complex
222 Quaker Lane
Warwick, RI 02886
Phone: (401) 822-6900

Newport County Superior Court
Murray Judicial Complex
45 Washington Square
Newport, RI 02840
Phone: (401) 841-8330

Rhode Island District Courts?

Rhode Island District Courts have limited jurisdiction over civil and criminal cases, depending on the cases’ facts and severity. The courts have exclusive jurisdiction over most general civil claims where the amount in dispute is below $5,000. It also has concurrent jurisdiction with Superior Courts over small claims worth more than $5,000, but not more than $10,000. Rhode Island District Courts also have small claims divisions that preside over cases where parties claim damages that do not exceed $2,500.

The Rhode Island Judiciary does not authorize District Courts to conduct jury trials. District Courts have jurisdiction over criminal matters, including misdemeanor and felony cases, excluding cases punishable by above one-year imprisonment or fine of more than $1,000. The courts may also handle certain municipal ordinance violations.

The Rhode Island District Court membership comprises 16 judicial officers, including one chief judge, one administrative judge, 12 associate judges, and two magistrates.

Rhode Island Workers’ Compensation Court?

The General Assembly established the Rhode Island Workers’ Compensation Court based on the Rhode Island Workers’ Compensation Act to improve the workers’ compensation system. The court attempts to protect the rights of workers by granting financial compensation in cases with proven merit. The Workers’ Compensation Court handles disputes arising between employees and employers over a staffer’s remuneration. It also handles disagreements between compensation insurers and employers. The court has jurisdiction over civil matters regarding workers’ payments in the state.

However, the Rhode Island Workers’ Compensation Court does not cover the following employees:

  • Partners
  • Salespersons or appraisers who earn on commission
  • School district employees
  • Sole proprietors
  • Domestic workers
  • Casual employees
  • Agricultural and domestic service employees
  • Volunteer or charitable workers

The Workers’ Compensation Court may not cover independent contractors, certain federal employees, firefighters, and police officers. However, these persons will be able to receive some relief from other compensation programs.  

The Workers’ Compensation Court has one chief judge and nine associate judges. The court conducts a pretrial conference within 21 days from the date an employee files a petition. Appeals from this trial go to the Appellate Division. The appeal must be filed within five days from the date the judge enters the order. Aggrieved parties may appeal the Appellate Division’s rulings to the Rhode Island Supreme Court.

The contact details and address of the Rhode Island Workers’ Compensation Court is listed below:

Joseph Garrahy Judicial Complex
1 Dorrance Plaza
Providence, RI 02903
Phone: (401) 458-5000
Fax: (401) 222-3121
TTY: (401) 458-5275

Rhode Island Family Courts?

Rhode Island Family Courts function as alternative courts, handling problems pertaining to children and families. These courts also provide services on the support, protection, and restoration of families with issues that threaten their general well-being and family solidarity. Family Courts have jurisdiction over family matters, including domestic relations and juvenile cases. Some of these domestic relations cases include issues relating to legal separation and divorce, such as paternity, division of property, child visitation, and child custody. The courts also hear matters relating to children such as child delinquency, abuse, waywardness, dependency, neglect, and mental deficiency.

The Family courts may also preside over some criminal and civil cases such as neglect, abandonment, desertion, and threats directed at family members. Appeals from Family Court rulings are sent to the Rhode Island Supreme Court.

A Rhode Island Family Court comprises one chief judge, 11 associate justices, one general magistrate, and eight magistrates. Family Courts also have Family Court Administrators that work under the superintendence of the chief judge.

The contact details and addresses of Rhode Island Family Courts are listed below:

Providence and Bristol Counties Family Court 
Joseph Garrahy Judicial Complex
1 Dorrance Plaza
Providence, RI 02903
Phone: Domestic Clerk's Office: (401) 458-3200 
Phone: Juvenile Clerk's Office: (401) 458-3290

Washington County Family Court
Howard McGrath Judicial Complex
4800 Tower Hill Road
Suite 196
Wakefield, RI 02879
Phone: (401) 782-4111

Newport County Family Court
45 Washington Square
Newport, RI 02840
Phone: (401) 841-8340

Kent County Family Court
222 Quaker Lane
Warwick, RI 02886
Phone: (401) 822-6725

Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal?

The Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal was established by the Rhode Island General Assembly in 1999. The court handles traffic cases in the state but does not have jurisdiction over the following:

  • Crimes that cause severe injury or death
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or other controlled substances
  • High-speed elusions or attempts to escape from Rhode Island law enforcement agencies
  • Driving without a valid license or other required documentation
  • Crimes involving driving or possessing stolen vehicles
  • A motorist’s refusal to take a breathalyzer test

Instead, the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal handles lesser traffic offenses, state violations of public water, and boating ordinances. It has concurrent jurisdiction with the state Municipal Courts over these cases. The Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal has exclusive jurisdiction over town or city traffic offenses and original jurisdiction over all civil motor vehicle and traffic offenses and some Department of Environmental Management violations. It is an independent court that operates under the Chief Magistrate’s supervision, but it is part of the Rhode Island unified court system.

The Traffic Tribunal comprises eight judicial officers, including four magistrates, two associate judges, one administrative magistrate, and a chief magistrate.

The contact details and addresses of Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal are listed below:

Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal
670 New London Avenue
Cranston, Rhode Island 02920
Phone: (401) 275-2700
TTY: (401) 275-2379
Fax: (401) 275-2359

Satellite Location
4800 Tower Hill Road
Wakefield, Rhode Island 02879
Phone: (401) 275-2700

Rhode Island Municipal Courts?

Rhode Island Municipal Courts have jurisdiction over most municipal ordinance violations within their territorial jurisdictions. These courts hear cases relating to animal ordinance violations, the zoning ordinance or local housing violations, and in some cases, parking permits. Each Municipal Court comprises seven judicial officers, including one auxiliary judge, four associate judges, one senior associate judge, and one chief judge. The city or town councils have the authority to appoint Municipal Court judges.

Rhode Island Probate Courts?

Rhode Island Probate Courts were created by RIGL 8-9, and they handle all probate cases within their territorial jurisdiction. Under Section 8-9-9 of the state’s general laws, Rhode Island Probate Courts handle cases probate of wills, minor guardianships, limited adult guardianships, conservatorships, administration of estates, adoption of adults, and authorization to sell or mortgage-related property at a private or public sale.

Probate Courts have jurisdiction over cases involving certain trusts, ruling on the related trustees involved, and name changes of adults that have received convictions for a felony or misdemeanor. Aggrieved persons may appeal Probate Court decisions to the Superior Court in the county where the Probate Court is located, in accordance with Section 33-23-1.

Rhode Island State Archives

State Archives

Search Includes

  • Arrests & Warrants
  • Criminal Records
  • Driving Violations
  • Police Records
  • Sheriff Records
  • Inmate Records
  • Felonies & Misdemeanors
  • Probation Records
  • Parole Records
  • Bankruptcies
  • Tax & Property Liens
  • Civil Judgements
  • Marriages & Divorces
  • Birth Records
  • Death Records
  • Property Records
  • Personal Assets
  • Business Ownership
  • Professional Licenses
  • Political Contributions
  • Unclaimed State Funds
  • Relatives & Associates
  • Address Registrations
  • Affiliated Phone Numbers
  • Affiliated Email Addresses

Results are based upon available information from state, county and municipal databases, and may not include some or all of the above details.

Rhode Island

The Rhode Island White Horse Tavern was initially constructed in 1673 as a courthouse. Today it is a restaurant.

  • Rhode Island has 8 different courts in their state court system. They are the Supreme Court, the Superior Court, the District Courts, the Municipal Courts, the Family Court, the Probate Court, the Traffic Tribunal, and the Workers’ Compensation Court.
  • The Rhode Island Supreme Court was founded in 1747 for it’s colony, and again in 1841 for the state. It is located in Providence; the state’s capital.
  • The Rhode Island Supreme Court has 5 judicial positions. They are appointed by the governor of the state.
  • The Rhode Island Superior Court is the state general jurisdiction trial court. They have original jurisdiction over all felony proceedings.

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