The Rhode Island Court System consists of a Traffic Tribunal, Workers' Compensation Court, District Court, Family Court, Superior Court and Supreme Court.
Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal Court
Created in 1999 by the Legislature, the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal has original jurisdiction over traffic offenses such as breathalyzer refusals, as well as Department of Environmental Management offenses. This court also exercises concurrent jurisdiction over misdemeanor and lesser traffic offenses with the Municipal Courts.
Rhode Island Workers' Compensation Court
Workers' Compensation Court hears all disputes regarding injured employees when related to workers' compensation benefits. This court was created in 1991 by the General Assembly and administers a system to provide benefits to employees and discontinue them when they aren't eligible for them anymore.
Rhode Island District Court
Rhode Island's District Court exercises jurisdiction over landlord and tenant issues, veterans' treatment, civil claims up to $5,000, and arraignments for felonies and misdemeanors. This court has concurrent jurisdiction with Superior Court in civil matters $5,000-$10,000.
Rhode Island Family Court
The Family Court oversees and decides cases of child custody, child support, juvenile delinquency, drug testing for juveniles, adoption and child abuse and neglect cases.
Rhode Island Superior Court
Rhode Island's Superior Court is comprised of 22 judges and 5 magistrates. This court conducts jury and non-jury trials. Superior Court jurisdiction includes civil matters over $10,000, equity cases, felonies and appeals from District Court. Unlike many appellate courts, the Superior Court conducts new trials in these appeals. It also hears zoning board and Probate Court appeals. This court exercises concurrent jurisdiction in civil cases of claims between $5,000 and $10,000.
Rhode Island Supreme Court
There are five justices who serve the Rhode Island Supreme Court. This is the state's highest court and court of last resort. If a party doesn't agree with the Supreme Court's decision, they may petition the U.S. Supreme Court for an appeal. This court supervises state courts and advises Legislative and Executive branches on constitutionality of statutes and rules.
Rhode Island Notable Court Cases
In 1786, Trevett v. Weeden., a case regarding paper currency being required to be accepted as legal tender, was one of the first cases to ever determine a legislative act was unconstitutional.
Picard v. Barry Pontiac-Buick, Inc. (1995), was a famous tort case now used in many textbooks as an example of battery. Battery is legally defined as "'offensive or unconsensual touching upon the body."
Angel v. Murray (1974) was the first case to apply UCC reasoning to service contract modification. The court's decision stated that if certain conditions are present, a contract does not always need to be modified. In this case, a contractor was hired to remove trash for a city in 1964 for a period of five years. In 1967, the contract price was increased by $10,000 because of the vast increase in households the contractor was removing refuse for. A lower trial court ordered the extra $10,000 to be paid back because it was not specified in the original contract. However, the Rhode Island Supreme Court determined that the precedent for such a case regarded only goods and not services, so it was determined that the unforeseen increase in refuse removal, although not specified in the still-active contract, was deserving of a higher contract price and the $10,000 additional fee was reasonable for such an increase in work.