Rhode Island Civil Court Records
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What are Rhode Island Civil Court Records?
Civil court records in Rhode Island refer to the various documents which contain relevant information on actions and proceedings recorded during civil trials in the state. These records are primarily maintained by the clerks of the courts where the cases were heard. Civil court records generally include all documents presented as evidence as well as summons, motions, pleadings, testimonies, depositions, and final judgements.
Understanding Rhode Island’s Civil Court System
The Rhode Island judicial system comprises the following types of courts: Supreme Court, Superior Court, District Court, Family Court, Traffic Tribunal, and Worker’s Compensation Court.
There are four superior courts in the state of Rhode Island handling civil cases where the monetary claims are greater $5,000. They also share overlapping jurisdiction with the district courts when the amount in dispute is between $5,000 - $10,000. They also handle appeals from lower courts.
The district courts and worker’s compensation courts are courts of limited jurisdiction that handle civil cases with claims under $5,000 and all controversies arising from worker’s compensation benefits respectively.
Unsatisfied parties may appeal the verdict of any of the aforementioned courts to the Supreme Court which serves as the court of last resort.
Cases Heard by Rhode Island’s Civil Courts
These cases include trials involving:
- Tort or personal injury
- Breach of contracts
- Civil rights infringement
- Worker’s conversation disputes
- Landlord-tenant disputes
Are Rhode Island Civil Court Records Open to the Public?
Following the establishment of the Rhode Island Judiciary Rule of Practice, most documents recorded during civil case proceedings were considered public records and thus made accessible to members of the public. These records are typically housed in the courthouse where the case was filed. Generally, records are made available to interested persons upon request. However, access to records that have been sealed by a court order or deemed confidential by statute is restricted to legally authorized persons.
What Is Included In a Rhode Island Civil Court Record?
Primarily, civil court records contain details of the initial complaints made as well as the dates of their filings. The information contained in civil court records are “case-specific”. However, the contents of these records share similar general characteristics which include:
- Biodata detailing the names and personal information of the parties to the case
- The date of filing and service
- Case information (court type, court location, case number, case type, case status)
- Case overview/summary
- The names of assigned attorney(s) and presiding judge(s) in the case
- hearing dates, time, and location
- Claims and counterclaims
- Date of final disposition/judgment
How to Find Civil Court Records in the State of Rhode Island
Grounded on the state’s Judicial Rule of Practice, any member of the public may view, inspect, request copies of court records on demand. However, parts and portions of records that have been sealed or rendered confidential are strictly available to eligible individuals and legal authorities. The various court clerks are tasked with the generation and dissemination of these records. The channels currently featured by the courts include:
- By making in-person requests to the court custodian
- By researching the online databases maintained in the different court websites or in third-party aggregate sites
- By sending written mail-in requests to the appropriate court
How To Find Rhode Island Civil Court Records Online?
The Rhode Island Judiciary maintains a state-wide online search system from which the public can remotely access civil court records over the internet. The unified case search portal named Public eService Access, allows anyone to search for records by case filing number and names of the parties involved as well as approximate date of filing. Usually, no registration or subscription is required to use this access portal.
The Public eService portal also features a Hearing Database where interested parties may view hearing dates, times, and locations. The Rhode Island judiciary also makes the state’s Superior Court calendars available online.
Similarly, publicly available records are accessible from some third-party websites. These websites offer the benefit of not being limited by geographical record availability and can often serve as a starting point when researching a specific or multiple records. To find a record using the search engines on these sites, interested parties must provide:
- The name of someone involved providing it is a not a juvenile
- The assumed location of the record in question such as a city, county, or state name
Third-party sites are not government-sponsored websites, and record availability may differ from official channels
How to Find Rhode Island Civil Court Records In-person
While the Rhode Island judiciary offers various online options for accessing civil court records, restricted and sealed civil court records are only available to eligible persons when requested in person..
In order to request a civil court record in person, the requesting party must first identify the specific court where the case was heard. For civil cases, this is usually a district court, a superior court, or a worker’s compensation court in the jurisdiction where the complaint was filed. Once confirmed, the requester may proceed to contact the Office of the Clerk of the Court.
Call ahead before heading to the courthouse and Office of the Clerk to book an appointment and enquire about requirements for obtaining requested records. Most Rhode Island courthouses have public access terminals where anyone can view court documents free of charge. They, however, charge nominal fees for copies of court records requested.
How to Find Rhode Island Civil Court Records Via Mail
Interested persons may request for civil court records by mail in Rhode Island. This involves sending a written request to the Office of the Clerk of the court. This request should provide information necessary for searching and retrieving court records of interest. Such information include names of the parties involved, case file number, and where and when the cases were filed. Each request must also identify the specific court record of interest and include a copy of the requester's government-issued ID, a self-addressed stamped envelope, and payment to cover the required search and/or copy fees. Some courthouses may provide request forms for this purpose.
How to Access Sealed Civil Court Records in Rhode Island
Sealed civil court records in the state are records rendered confidential by state statutes or court rule. They usually contain sensitive and personal information. Generally, these records are available to only authorized and eligible individuals such as the named parties in the records and their legal representatives. To access it, third parties must present court orders authorizing access to those records. To obtain such order, the requesting party must petition the court and provide reasons that convince the sitting judge of the need to make these records public. The requesting party is also required to cover the fee of this process. If the petition is granted, the authorized person may then proceed to the courthouse with the signed court order.