Category Archives: RI Courts

Court Denies Motion to add Cities and Towns to Rhode Island State Pension Lawsuit

In an 18-page decision, Superior Court Associate Justice Sarah Taft-Carter denied the state’s motion to add various cities, towns and other governmental entities as indispensable parties (defendants) in Rhode Island Council 94, AFSCME, AFL-CIO Locals, et al. v. Lincoln Chafee, et al., No. 12-3168 (July 22, 2014).

At issue is Rule 19 of the Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure which states the following:

A person who is subject to service of process shall be joined as a party in the action if (1) in the person’s absence complete relief cannot be accorded among those already parties, or (2) the person claims an interest relating to the subject of the action and is so situated that the disposition of the action in the person’s absence may (i) as a practical matter impair or impede the person’s ability to protect that interest or (ii) leave any of the persons already parties subject to a substantial risk of incurring double, multiple, or otherwise inconsistent obligations by reason of the person’s claimed interest.

The Court stated that municipalities are certainly relevant to the action, but not indispensable.  The Court stated as follows:

Municipal entities have no direct interest in this action. Plain tiffs’ retirement benefits stem directly from ERS, and not through CBAs with municipal entities. The implied contractual interest was found to be due to the circumstances between the State and the Plaintiffs. The State was acting as an employer when it enacted the pension statute. This forms the basis of the implied contract.

Furthermore, the absence of municipal entities from this action does not hinder the ability of this Court to accord relief in this case, given that Plaintiffs seek a declaration that a statute is unconstitutional.

Read the full opinion here.

Rhode Islander sues Cristiano Ronaldo over CR7

A Rhode Island man, Christopher Renzi, has filed a lawsuit in Rhode Island Federal Court seeking a declaratory judgement against Portuguese soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo regarding trademark infringement for the term, “CR7.”

The case, in front of Judge Jack McConnell, is Christopher Renzi v. Cristiano Ronaldo, et. al. 14-cv-00341-M-PAS (click here to read the complaint).

cristiano ronaldo cr7The lawsuit, filed on July 28, 2014 by Providence lawyer Michael Feldhuhn, seeks a declaratory judgement that Rhode Islander Renzi “owns the trademark ‘CR7’ and that his continued use of the ‘CR7’ mark does not infringe any trademark owned or used by the defendants.”

The judgement is sought against both Ronaldo and JBS Textile Group, a Denmark clothing corporation who filed a petition to cancel Renzi’s “CR7” trademark registration from 2009 with the Trademark and Trial and Appeal Board of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Read the full complaint here.

RI Hispanic Bar Association Meet and Greet

The Rhode Island Hispanic Bar Association is hosting its 1st Meet and Greet on August 13, 2014 from 600pm to 830pm at Bravo (123 Empire Street).  At this networking event, the Association will take contributions for a scholarship being started aimed at helping young Latino college students interested in pursuing a law degree.

Federal Court: Warwick City Worker Prohibited from US Senate run

The U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island yesterday refused to grant a temporary restraining order regarding a Warwick city law that is keeping a city classified employee, Raymond T. McKay, from running for the U.S. Senate against U.S. Senator Jack Reed.

The law in question is Section 48-107 of the Warwick Code of Ordinances:

Classified employees and members of personnel hearing board not to run for or hold elective office.permanent link to this piece of content No classified employee or member of the personnel hearing board shall seek the nomination of or be a candidate for any elective office; neither shall any elective officer be appointed a member of the personnel hearing board or a classified employee unless he/she resigns his/her elective office.

The Providence Journal reported further on the Court’s ruling.

McConnell, citing a raft of case law, including multiple rulings issued by the U.S. Supreme Court, forcefully asserted the legal standing of Warwick’s ordinances. “There is no question whatsoever that this is a proper exercise of the city’s right to regulate its work force,” McConnell said. “The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently, clearly, and definitively said that local governments can prohibit … employees from running for partisan political offices because governments have sufficiently important interests — such as interest in visibly fair and effective administration and the interest in ensuring that employees are free from both coercion and the prospect of favor from political activity … .”

The full story is here.

 

Supreme Court decides Whistleblower Case in Rhode Island

In a ruling issued this week, in Peter W. Russo v. State of Rhode Island, Department of Mental Health, Retardation and Hospitals et al., No. 11-360 (March 24, 2014), the Rhode Island Supreme Court held that placing an employee on paid administrative leave with the requirement that he undergo an IME did not constitute an action which “discharge[d], threaten[ed], or otherwise discriminate[d]” against the employee in violation of the Rhode Island Whistleblowers’ Protection Act (WPA), G.L. 1956 chapter 50 of title 28.

In so holding, the Court vacated the decision of the Superior Court and held that the defendant did not violate the WPA.

In 2010, the Superior Court had held that the defendant had violated WPA when it placed the plaintiff on administrative leave with pay and required that he undergo an independent medical examination (IME). The defendant contended on appeal that the trial justice erred in finding: (1) that paid administrative leave and the requirement to undergo an IME constituted a “discharge, threat[], or * * * discriminat[ion]” under the WPA; (2) that the plaintiff had reported violations of a “law or regulation or rule promulgated under the law of [Rhode Island]” (which is one of the preconditions for obtaining relief under the WPA); (3) that there was a causal connection between the plaintiff’s reports at issue in the case and his placement on paid administrative leave; and (4) that the defendant did not have “legitimate nonretaliatory” grounds to place the plaintiff on paid administrative leave and require that he undergo an IME.

The Supreme Court agreed, stating that, “Since the MHRH did not “discharge, threaten, or otherwise discriminate” against Mr. Russo , it cannot be found to have violated the WPA and the trial justice’s decision must be reversed.”

Read the full opinion here.

RI Bar Association Announces Openings for House of Delegates

J. Robert Weisberger, the President of the Rhode Island Bar Association,
sent out an invitation for attorneys to send letters of interest to join the House of Delegates.

Letters of Interest for our Bar’s House of Delegates (HOD), with a term of office from July 1, 2014- June 30, 2015, are due no later than Friday February 21, 2014. For those interested in becoming a member of the Bar’s Executive Committee and an eventual Bar officer, House of Delegates’ membership is a necessary first step. If you are interested in serving on the HOD, and if you have have not already done so, please send a letter of interest no later than February 21st. For information on House of Delegates Letters of Interest and the selection process, please click here.

This year, our Bar Association is seeking nominations for three annual Awards honoring our colleagues for their outstanding service to the profession and the community:

1) Ralph P. Semonoff Award for Professionalism;  

2) Florence K. Murray Award; and  

3) Victoria M. Almeida Servant Leader Award.

All three 2014 award nominations are due no later than Wednesday, March 5, 2014. For individual award information and nominating criteria, please click on the Award names above.

RIAJ Presents: A View from the Bench

The Rhode Island Association for Justice is presenting their annual event – A View from the Bench – on Thursday, February 6th from 5:30 pm – 8:00 pm at the Omni Providence Hotel.  Details are available on their website here.

The featured panelists at the event are as follows:

  • Chief Judge William E. Smith  United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island
  • The Honorable Francis X. Flaherty  RI Supreme Court
  • The Honorable Susan E. McGuirl  RI Superior Court
  • The Honorable Sandra A. Lanni  RI Family Court

The mission of RIAJ is to preserve the constitutional right to trial by jury, strengthen the civil justice system through education, safeguard consumers’ rights, promote the public good through efforts to secure safe products, a safe workplace, a clean environment, and quality health care, and uphold and defend the constitutions of the United States of America and the State of Rhode Island.