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The Supreme Court vacated the decree of the family court that terminated Mother's parental rights with respect to her minor son, holding that notice of the hearing date on the petition to terminate Mother's parental rights was improper as a matter of law and that the decree must be vacated and the matter remanded for a hearing with appropriate notice in accordance with R.I. Gen. Laws 15-7-9. The family court ordered that an advertisement be placed in a local newspaper notifying Mother the a hearing on the petition to terminate her parental rights would be held on October 3, 2017. Mother was not present at the October 3, 2017 hearing, and the court went forward with the hearing despite Mother's absence. The trial justice determined that Mother was unfit to parent and ordered that Mother's parental rights be terminated. The Supreme Court vacated the decree and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding (1) because there was no affidavit filed in advance of the family court order of notice by publication in accordance with R. I. Gen. Laws 15-7-9, the family court's order of advertisement was improper as a matter of law; and (2) Mother was entitled to procedural due process before the termination of her parental rights. View "In re Joziah B." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court convicting Defendant of five counts of second-degree sexual assault, holding that the trial justice did not err in denying Defendant's motion for a new trial. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial justice erred in denying his motion for a new trial because the trial justice overlooked and misconceived the evidence. Specifically, Defendant argued that the trial justice should have rejected the victim's testimony and given it no weight. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the trial justice did not overlook or misconceive material evidence and articulated more than adequate grounds for denying Defendant's motion for a new trial. View "State v. Rogers" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decisions of the family court granting an absolute divorce to Defendant and his former wife, Plaintiff, and ordering an equitable distribution of their marital assets, holding that Defendant's arguments were without merit. Specifically, the Court held (1) the family court had jurisdiction to grant Plaintiff's complaint for divorce, as well as Defendant's counterclaim for divorce, even to those whose religious beliefs repudiate divorce; (2) the family court justice did not abuse her discretion in disproportionately distributing the parties' marital assets; and (3) the family court justice did not abuse her discretion in imposing sanctions requiring Defendant to pay Plaintiff's reasonable attorney's fees under Rule 11 of the Family Court Rules of Procedure for Domestic Relations. View "Smith v. Smith" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Retirement Board of the Employee Retirement System of Providence (the Board) denying Petitioner's application for accidental disability retirement benefits and instead awarding her ordinary disability benefits, holding that there was legally competent evidence supporting the Board's decision to deny Petitioner accidental disability retirement benefits. Petitioner, who served as a bus monitor for the City of Providence, submitted an application for accidental-disability retirement benefits to Respondent, the Employees' Retirement System of Providence, alleging that she had suffered a work-related injury. The Board denied Petitioner's application and instead granted Petitioner ordinary disability benefits. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Board based its decision on legally competent evidence that Petitioner's employment was not the natural and proximate cause of her disability. View "Trinidad v. Employees' Retirement System of Providence" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the superior court denying Defendant's motion to correct sentence pursuant to Rule 35 of the Superior Court Rules of Criminal Procedure, holding that the trial justice did not err in denying Defendant's motion to correct sentence. In 2006, Defendant was convicted of first- and second-degree child molestation sexual assault. From 2004 until his determination of guilt in 2006, Defendant was on "electronic home confinement" as a condition of bail. Following the completion of his direct and postconviction relief appeals Defendant filed a pro se motion for correction of sentence, arguing that the twenty-four months he spent on home confinement should be credited toward his overall sentence pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws 12-19-2(a). The trial court denied Defendant's motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial justice correctly ruled that Defendant should not be credited with the time he spent on home confinement; (2) Defendant waived his equal protection argument; and (3) the trial justice did not abuse her discretion in denying Defendant's request for counsel in connection with his motion to correct sentence. View "State v. Merida" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court granting Defendants' motion to dismiss this action challenging the assessment of alleged illegal taxes, holding that the hearing justice did not err in granting Defendants' motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Superior court Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiff, Bluedog Capital Partners, LLC, filed this action against the tax collector, the tax assessor, and the finance director for the City of Providence, alleging that Defendants had illegal assessed a parcel of property in Providence and seeking injunctive relief against the sale of the parcel pursuant to a tax sale. The hearing justice granted Defendants' motion to dismiss, concluding that the suit would need to sound in equity and was therefore time-barred and that there was nothing to enjoin because the property had already been sold. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Plaintiff failed to comply with the taxing statutes, its complaint failed as a matter of law, and even assuming for purposes of Defendants' motion to dismiss that Plaintiff had alleged an illegal tax, Plaintiff's complaint was untimely under the statute of limitations in R.I. Gen. Laws 44-5-27. View "Bluedog Capital Partners, LLC v. Murphy" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court remanded with directions to modify the superior court's April 22, 2013 attorneys' fees order, affirmed in part and vacated in part the April 26, 2013 judgment of the superior court, and affirmed the court's June 5, 2013 order, holding that the sanctions order was overly broad and the amount of attorneys' fees was excessive. This case began with a dispute over Appellant's aunt's estate after she died. The April 22, 2013 order awarded attorneys' fees to opposing counsel. The April 26, 2013 judgment denied and dismissed Appellant's probate appeal and prohibited Appellant from filing pleadings or other documents in the superior court unless signed by a licensed attorney. The June 5, 2013 order denied Appellant's motions to vacate that were filed pursuant to either Rule 59 or Rule 60 of the Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure. The Supreme Court held (1) the sanctions order was overly broad in duration, infringing on Appellant's right of access to the courts; (2) a twenty-five percent reduction in the amount of attorneys' fees to be awarded was appropriate; and (3) Appellant's contentions on appeal with respect to her motions to vacate were unavailing. View "In re Estate of Elizabeth Brown" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of two counts of first degree robbery and one count of conspiracy to commit robbery, holding that the admission of an out-of-court statement made by an alleged coconspirator who did not appear at Defendant's trial, was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. While the sole issue on appeal was whether Defendant's Sixth Amendment confrontation rights were violatedl. The Court held (1) this Court assumes, without deciding, that a Confrontation Clause objection was properly articulated; and (2) because the remaining evidence was sufficiently compelling to support the jury's finding of guilty, the admission of the coconspirator's out-of-court declaration was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. View "State v. Sanchez" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendant in this negligence action, holding that summary judgment was appropriately granted in favor of Defendant on Plaintiff's negligence claim. Plaintiff and Defendant were fellow employees. Defendant injured Plaintiff when he ignited gasoline in a bathroom Plaintiff was occupying and the gasoline burst into flames. Plaintiff filed a negligence complaint against Defendant. The superior court granted summary judgment for Defendant based on the exclusivity provision of the Workers' Compensation Act, R.I. Gen. Laws 28-29-20. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) R.I. Gen. Laws 28-35-58 did not enable Plaintiff to maintain a suit against Defendant even though Plaintiff accepted and received workers' compensation benefits from his employer; and (2) absent disputed issues of material fact in this case, summary judgment was properly granted in favor of Defendant. View "Mello v. Killeavy" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court denying Defendant's motion for a new trial after convicting Defendant of of assault and battery resulting in serious bodily injury and possession of a knife with a blade of more than three inches, holding that the trial justice did not err in denying Defendant's motion for a new trial. In his motion for a new trial, Defendant argued that the trial justice overlooked and misconceived material evidence when he agreed with the jury's verdict because the trial justice did not take into account that Defendant had to appreciate that he knowingly had an opportunity to retreat in safety. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the trial justice more than adequately performed his role under each step of the analysis of Defendant's motion for a new trial. View "State v. Guerrero" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law