Justia Rhode Island Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Rights
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court convicting and committing Defendant for one count of second-degree murder and one count of first-degree child abuse, holding that there was no prejudicial error in this case.Specifically, the Supreme Court held that the trial justice (1) did not err in denying Defendant's motion to suppress the statement he made while at the police station after concluding that Defendant was not seized without probable cause prior to giving his statement; (2) did not err in denying Defendant's motion to dismiss all counts of the indictment as unconstitutionally vague; and (3) did not overlook or misconceive material evidence in denying Defendant's motion for new trial. View "State v. Jimenez" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court quashed the portion of the superior court order granting partial summary judgment in favor of Plaintiffs as to liability against Westlo Management, LLC on counts one, two, three, and seven of Plaintiffs' third-amended complaint, holding that the record was inadequate for a determination of whether the hearing justice abused his discretion in granting the motion to intervene filed by The Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights.Plaintiff Curtis Andrade filed a charge of discrimination with the Commission. The Commission found probable cause that Defendants had violated Plaintiff's rights. Plaintiff then filed this action, after which the hearing justice granted the Commission's motion to intervene as a party plaintiff. The hearing justice granted Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment on four counts against Westlo, finding that Westlo had discriminated against Plaintiff by denying him the reasonable accommodation of having his dog his residence. The Supreme Court vacated the decision below, holding that Westlo failed provide the Court with a proper transcript of the hearing on the Commission's motion to intervene this Court was unable to conduct a meaningful review of the superior court's decisions on the issue of the Commission's intervention. View "Andrade v. Westlo Management LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the superior court granting Defendant's motion to suppress the statements he made to police at the scene of an automobile collision, holding that the superior court did not abuse its discretion in granting the suppression motion.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the trial justice correctly determined that Defendant was in custody when he made incriminating statements to the law enforcement officer at the scene of the arrest and therefore correctly suppressed the statements Defendant made to the officers at the time; and (2) the state's second contention on appeal was not properly before the Court. View "State v. Corcoran" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the superior court granting Defendants' motion to dismiss all electronic, wire, or oral communications obtained through the use of wiretaps and any subsequently-obtained evidence in these consolidated cases, holding that the trial justice did not err.In granting Defendants' motion to suppress, the trial justice found that an associate justice of the superior court had no authority to issue the wiretap orders. The State appealed this ruling and argued, alternatively, that the trial justice erred in concluding that suppression of the evidence derived from the wiretap orders was warranted. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court correctly concluded that the associate justice was not vested with the statutory authority to administer and sign the wiretap orders and, therefore, that those orders were in violation of R.I. Gen. Laws 12-5.1, the Interception of Wire and Oral Communications Act. View "State v. McGuire" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court dismissing Plaintiffs' claims based on lack of standing, holding that there was no error.In 2019, the General Assembly enacted the Reproductive Privacy Act, R.I. Gen. Laws chapter 4.13 of title 23 (RPA), effectively granting a right to abortion in line with Roe v. Wade. 410 U.S. 113 (1973). Plaintiffs initiated this action seeking to halt the passage of House Bill 5125, Substitute B, which later became the RPA. The trial justice denied relief. Plaintiffs then filed a complaint challenging the General Assembly's authority to enact the RPA. The trial court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs lacked standing to bring their claims. View "Benson v. McKee" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court convicting Defendant of first-degree murder, first-degree robbery, and other crimes, holding that Defendant was not entitled to relief on her allegations of error.On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial justice erred in denying her motion to suppress the evidence found at her apartment, denying her motion to suppress the evidence found in her vehicle, and violating her right to confront a witness. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) there was no error in the trial justice's denial of Defendant's motion to suppress the evidence obtained in the apartment based on insufficient probable cause; (2) the trial justice did not clearly err in denying Defendant's request for a Franks hearing; (3) the warrantless seizure of Defendant's vehicle did not violate her rights under either the State or Federal Constitution; and (4) Defendant's Confrontation Clause argument was waived. View "State v. Hudgen" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the final judgment of the superior court in favor of Defendants due to Plaintiff's having failed to comply with her discovery obligations, which had earlier been the subject of a conditional order of dismissal, holding that there was no error.Plaintiff brought this complaint alleging that Defendants had discriminated against her in retaliation for her whistleblowing activities and that she was entitled to relief under the Rhode Island Whistleblowers' Protection Act. Ultimately, the hearing justice granted Defendants' motion for final judgment on the grounds that Plaintiff had, over a five-year period, repeatedly failed to comply with her discovery obligations. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the hearing justice acted within her discretion in ordering the entry of final judgment. View "Boss v. Chamberland" on Justia Law

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In this action for declaratory judgment the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the superior court denying Family Dollar Stores of Rhode Island, Inc.'s motion for summary judgment and granting summary judgment for Justin Araujo, the complainant in a proceeding before the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights, holding that the hearing justice erred.Araujo filed a complaint with the Commission alleging that Family Dollar, his employer, had discriminated against him on the basis of an illness. The parties entered into a settlement agreement that included a release. At issue was whether the release unambiguously constituted a waiver by Araujo of his right to pursue all claims he could make against Family Dollar. The hearing justice granted summary judgment in favor of Araujo, entering judgment declaring that the release did not cover Araujo's discrimination claims. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the release unambiguously precluded Araujo from pursuing a discrimination charge with the Commission. View "Family Dollar Stores of Rhode Island, Inc. v. Araujo" on Justia Law

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In these consolidated appeals, the Supreme Court held that Rhode Island's civil death statute, R.I. Gen. Laws 13-61-1, is unconstitutional and in clear contravention of the provisions of R.I. Const. art. I, 5.Plaintiffs, Cody-Allen Zab and Jose R. Rivera, were two inmates serving sentences of life imprisonment. Plaintiff brought this action against Defendants, the Rhode Island Department of Corrections and its director and Global Tel*Link Corporation, asserting that while they were imprisoned they incurred injuries due to Defendants' negligence. The hearing justice concluded that the civil death statute barred Plaintiffs' negligence claims and that Zab's 42 U.S.C. 1983 federal claim failed as a matter of law. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the civil death statute unconstitutionally denied Plaintiffs the right to gain access to the courts. View "Zab v. R.I. Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of one count of first-degree robbery and other firearm-related offenses, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below.On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court erred in refusing to instruct the jury on cross-racial identification and that he was denied his right to due process when the trial court denied his motion to dismiss the State's habitual offender notice. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial justice did not err or abuse his discretion in failing to give Defendant's requested instruction regarding cross-racial identifications; and (2) the trial justice did not err in denying Defendant's motion to dismiss the State's habitual offender notice as untimely under R.I. Gen. Laws 12-19-21. View "State v. Hampton-Boyd" on Justia Law