Justia Rhode Island Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decree of the family court that terminated Mother's parental rights with respect to her daughter, holding that the family court justice's findings were not clearly wrong, and the justice did not overlook or misconceive material evidence. On appeal, Mother argued that the family court justice erred in finding unfitness, in concluding that the Department of Children, Youth, and Families made reasonable efforts to provide services to address the circumstances that led to the child's placement in the first instance, and in determining that the termination of Mother's parental rights was in the best interest of the child. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that legally competent evidence existed to supporting the family court justice's findings. View "In re Violet G." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court convicting Defendant of assault with a dangerous weapon and malicious injury to property, 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 jury's verdict was against the weight of the evidence. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court, holding that the trial justice articulated adequate grounds for denying the motion, carefully reviewed the testimony and weighed the evidence before him, and properly concluded, based on his own credibility determinations, that the weight of the evidence supported guilty verdicts as to both counts. View "State v. Najera" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the superior court granting summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff as to Plaintiff's claim seeking injunctive relief for Defendants' alleged trespass and permanently enjoining Defendant and its officers, customers, and employees from parking in parking spaces owned by Plaintiff, holding that the hearing justice did not err in granting summary judgment on this claim. This case centered around a dispute over parking spaces in the Watch Hill section of Westerly. In an earlier case, Defendants sued Plaintiff regarding the parking spaces. Plaintiff later brought this action. After a hearing justice granted summary judgment on its injunctive relief claim, Defendants appealed, arguing that the trial justice erred by failing to order that the dispute be arbitrated and granting Plaintiff injunctive relief based on res judicata and collateral estoppel. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendants waived their right to arbitration of the injunctive relief claim; and (2) there existed identity of issues between the first action and the current dispute. View "JHRW, LLC v. Seaport Studios, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court affirming a decision of the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training (DLT) that denied Petitioners' wage and hour claims against Delta Airline, Inc., holding that the superior court did not err in affirming the DLT's finding that R.I. Gen. Laws 25-3-3 was preempted by federal law. Petitioners were customer service agents for Delta at its facility at the T.F. Green Airport in Warwick, Rhode Island. Petitioners filed separate individual "nonpayment of wages" complaints with DLT, alleging that Delta violated the provisions of section 25-3-3 by failing to pay Petitioners time-and-a-half for hours worked on Sundays and holidays. The hearing officer determined that section 25-3-3 was preempted by section 49 U.S.C. 41713(b)(1) of the Airline Deregulation Act (ADA). The superior court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Petitioners' claims were preempted by the ADA. View "Brindle v. Rhode Island Department of Labor & Training" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the postjudgment order of the family court in favor of Judith Cusick requiring Maurice Cusick to submit to limited genetic testing for the benefit of the parties' minor children, holding that the hearing justice made sufficient findings of fact and did not overlook or misconceive any evidence. Judith, Maurice's former wife, filed her motion for genetic testing after Maurice was diagnosed with a genetic heart condition that poses significant risks that can result in sudden death. The hearing justice granted the motion. Maurice appealed, arguing for the first time that ordering him to submit to genetic testing violated his constitutional rights to privacy and due process. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Maurice's constitutional challenges were not property before the Court; and (2) the hearing justice's conclusion that genetic testing was in the best interest of the children was supported by the evidence, and the order was both balanced and reasonable. View "Cusick v. Cusick" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law, Health Law
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In this case concerning the award of a concessions contract for concessions at a public park in the City of Providence the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court in favor of Defendants - the City, the Rhode Island Zoological Society (the Zoo), P.G.S., Inc., and various municipal officials - holding that the trial justice did not abuse his discretion or commit a clear error of law. Plaintiff brought this complaint after the City awarded the concessions contract to the Zoo rather than to Plaintiff, La Gondola, Inc. The trial justice entered judgment for Defendants. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial justice properly (1) concluded that the bidding process was free of corruption, bad faith, and/or an abuse of discretion; (2) held that a certain amendment to the contract was not enforceable; and (3) denied Plaintiff's claim of intentional interference with prospective contractual relations. View "La Gondola, Inc. v. City of Providence" on Justia Law

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In this dispute surrounding the distribution of the assets of the parties' deceased mother the Supreme Court affirmed the judgments of the superior court with respect to the substance of two orders of the probate court, holding that two bank accounts should be distributed pursuant to paragraph three of the decedent's will and that there was no basis to remove the current executrix of the decedent's estate. The decedent's children were Michaela, Mark, Lizbeth, and Lisa. Lizbeth was named executrix of the decedent's estate. The probate court determined that the two accounts at issue were part of the "general inventory" of the estate and, therefore, the proceeds of those accounts should be distributed under paragraph six of Catherine's will - i.e., divided equally among all four of Catherine's children. Lizbeth appealed. When Michaela and Mark unsuccessfully sought to remove Lizabeth as executrix, they appealed. The two appeals were consolidated. The superior court concluded that the accounts were not estate assets and, pursuant to paragraph three of the decedent's will, should be distributed to Lisa and Lizbeth respectively. The court affirmed the probate court's decision not to remove Lizabeth as executrix. The Supreme Court affirmed both judgments of the superior court, holding that the trial justice did not err in its judgment. View "Larkin v. Arthurs" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court denying Appellant's application for postconviction relief, holding that the postconviction hearing justice did not err in denying Appellant's application. Twelve years after Appellant entered a nolo contendere plea to the charge of possession of cocaine Appellant filed an application for postconviction relief alleging, among other things, that he received ineffective assistance of counsel because he was not advised of the immigration consequences of his plea. The postconvcition hearing justice denied the application and declined to address the State's issue of laches. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Appellant's arguments on appeal lacked merit and that Appellant's petition for postconviction relief could also have been denied based on the doctrine of laches. View "Desamours v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of assault of a police officer, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct, holding that the trial justice did not err in determining that Defendant had waived his constitutional right to counsel. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial justice erred in concluding that he made a voluntary, knowing, and intelligent waiver of his constitutional right to counsel. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the trial justice did not err in (1) determining that Defendant voluntarily waived his right to counsel prior to trial; and (2) finding that Defendant knowingly and intelligently waived his right to counsel. View "State v. Souto" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants on the grounds that the case was moot, holding that there was no justiciable controversy before the Court and that Plaintiffs failed to meet the burden of demonstrating that the issues raised in their complaint were of extreme public importance and were capable of repetition yet will evade review. After the National Education Association Rhode Island and the Middletown Teachers' Association/NEA (collectively, the Union) and the Middletown School Committee (school committee) reached a tentative successor agreement to a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that was due to expire the Town of Middletown refused to ratify the agreement. The Union filed suit challenging the denial. Thereafter, the parties agreed to a new three-year CBA, and the Town voted to ratify the agreement. The trial justice granted summary judgment for Defendants, the Town, the school committee, and the Middletown School Department. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial justice did not err in granting summary judgment on the basis of mootness and that no exceptions to the mootness doctrine existed. View "National Education Ass'n Rhode Island v. Town of Middletown" on Justia Law