Tag Archives: Rhode Island

Photo ID Required – Rhode Island Primary Elections 2014

Tuesday, more than 100,000 Rhode Islanders will vote in the Democratic and Republican Primaries.  For the first time, a photo ID will be required – although it is important to note that all voters – with ID or not – will be allowed to vote.

Confused?  Don’t be.  Voters who do not bring a Photo ID can still vote using a Provisional Ballot.  The voter can then check the status of their provisional ballot and whether the Board of Canvassers approved or rejected his or her ballot here.  The ballot should be counted if the signature he or she gives at the polling place matches the signature on the voter registration card.

Here is a list of the acceptable forms of photo ID in English and in Spanish.
Photo ID Required in RI Election.Photo ID - Spanish

Voters can also check their polling location and view a sample ballot here.

Rhode Island Courts prepare to unveil new E-Filing System

Rhode Island Bar Association President J. Robert Weisberger, Jr. issued an exciting message this week about the Rhode Island Judiciary’s move towards a new case management and electronic filing (e-filing) system.

These systems will dramatically change how case files are handled in the courts, and how lawyers, law offices and self-represented litigants will interact with the courts.     The system is scheduled for a March 2014 introduction at the Workers’ Compensation Court (WCC). That court was chosen for the initial phase due to its relatively small size and the limited number of attorneys who practice there. It will provide an outstanding opportunity to test software, data entry and procedures. Within three years, Rhode Island’s six courts will convert to the new CMS and e-filing, and the Traffic Tribunal will have updated online payment capabilities by the end of this year.

The tentative timeline after the Workers Comp Court implementation is as follows:

  • By October 2014, a new CMS and e-filing system for civil matters in the Superior, Family and District Courts,
  • By May 2015 a new CMS and e-filing system for the Traffic Tribunal.
  • By May 2016, a new CMS and e-filing system for Superior and District criminal cases and Supreme Court cases.

This is a great development for attorneys, the judiciary and the public.   Both of these new systems are owned by Tyler Technologies of Plano, Texas.  Other jurisdictions using this software include New Hampshire, Indiana, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oregon and New Mexico. Expect to hear more developments about the progress of the new system at the 2014 Annual Meeting of the Rhode Island Bar Association on June 19 and 20, 2014.

RI Supreme Court Affirms Family Court Order Requiring Husband to pay Health Insurance

The Rhode Island Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Family Court today in O’Donnell v. O’Donnell (No. 2012-52-Appeal), ruling that a stenographic record of an oral agreement reached in open court is sufficient to form a non-modifiable marital settlement agreement.

The plaintiff husband in this case made the argument that because the agreement was neither drafted nor signed by the parties, it is nothing more than stenographic notes and not a binding agreement.  The Court found no merit in this argument in an opinion written by Justice Goldberg:

…the Family Court justice found that the parties intended and agreed that plaintiff was to provide health insurance coverage to defendant, with only limited exceptions concerning employer – provided health insurance. The Family Court justice reached this conclusion after reviewing the transcript from the November 12, 2002 hearing, where plaintiff’s counsel — without objection — read this provision into the re cord. The Family Court justice noted that , after plaintiff’s attorney submitted that transcript as a joint exhibit at the December 6, 2002 hearing, both plaintiff and defendant testified under oath and confirmed their assent to its terms. At no time did either party object or voice any disagreement with the health insurance coverage provisions. Accordingly, the parties are bound by the agreement which they affirmed in open court.

You can read the entire opinion here.

RI Supreme Court: Laramie Removal from School Building Committee Illegal

In an interesting “all politics is local” case, the Rhode Island Supreme Court – in Foster Glocester Regional School Building Committee et al v. Steven A. Sette et al. – affirmed the Superior Court’s judgment in granting declaratory relief but vacated the preliminary injunction because the Court concluded that the need for the injunction no longer existed.

The defendants were four members of the Glocester Town Council who voted to remove the plaintiff, Gregory Laramie, from his position on the Foster-Glocester Regional School Building Committee (RBC) by declaring his seat on the RBC vacant.  The defendants contended that the Glocester Town Charter expressly empowers the Glocester Town Council with the authority to remove those members of the RBC whom the Glocester Town Council has appointed or to fill vacancies on the RBC when they arise.  Alternatively, the defendants argued that the Glocester Town Council nonetheless possesses this authority by implication because the authority to appoint a member to the RBC necessarily implies the authority to remove him or her.

The Supreme Court first considered the Superior Court’s grant of declaratory relief to the plaintiffs.  The Court determined that the Glocester Town Charter did not empower the Glocester Town Council to remove members of the RBC because although the Glocester Town Charter grants the Glocester Town Council the authority to remove members of the boards, commissions, and committees of the Town of Glocester, the RBC is not a board, commission, or committee of the Town of Glocester.

Consequently, any authority for the Glocester Town Council to remove members of the RBC, or to declare seats on the RBC vacant and appoint new members, must derive from the legislation that created the Foster-Glocester Regional School District and the RBC, to wit, Public Laws 1958, chapter 109.  Section 4 of Public Laws 1958, chapter 109, authorized the Glocester Town Council to appoint three members to the RBC and to appoint a replacement in the event of a vacancy.  But the Court held that § 4 was silent about whether any member of the RBC can be removed from office.  Also, the statute set a term for the life of the RBC, but did not provide a term for its members.  In the Supreme Court’s judgment, nothing in § 4 authorized the Glocester Town Council to remove RBC members whom they had appointed.

The Supreme Court, however, vacated the preliminary injunction because, after having declared that the Glocester Town Council did not possess the authority to remove members of the RBC, the need for injunctive relief ceased to exist.

Lessig Testifies in Support of Constitutional Convention in Rhode Island General Assembly

Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee of the Rhode Island House of Representatives heard testimony on H-8186 a Joint Resolution introduced by Rep. David Segal and co-sponsored by Representatives Fierro, Ajello, Lima and Handy.

One of the foremost American public intellectuals on the Internet and Democracy – Harvard Law Professor Lawrence “Larry” Lessig – came to Rhode Island to testify in support of the Joint Resolution.  He is the founder of Creative Commons and author of “Code,” “The Future of Ideas,” and “Free Culture.”

I interviewed Lessig about his testimony and about his mission to remove the influence of money from politics through CallAConvention.org.  Watch the interview here.

The last state to sign onto the Bill of Rights, Rhode Island – if it passes H-8186, could become the first state to call for a Constitutional Convention in an effort to break Congress’ dependence on special interest money.

The text of the Joint Resolution is as follows:

WHEREAS, The Supreme Court of the United States has recently reinterpreted the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment to grant corporations an unlimited right to spend corporate funds on independent political advertisement; and

WHEREAS, Such a change will only increase the already pathological dependence that members of Congress have upon private funds to secure their election to Congress and the election of their party; and

WHEREAS, This dependence has already weakened American democracy; and WHEREAS, Article V of the United States Constitution gives state legislatures the power, if two-thirds agree, to call for a convention to propose amendments to the United States Constitution; now, therefore be it

RESOLVED, That this General Assembly hereby respectfully directs Congress to direct such a convention to consider amendments to reverse the Supreme Court’s decision, and remedy the dependence that currently debilitates American democracy; and be it further

RESOLVED, That this General Assembly further respectfully directs Congress to direct such a convention to only consider amendments explicitly referenced by at least forty percent of the states calling for a convention, thereby limiting the potential scope of such a convention; and be it further

RESOLVED, That this General Assembly hereby expressly rejects any amendment proposed by such a convention that is not explicitly referenced by at least forty percent of the states calling for a convention; and be it further

RESOLVED, That the Secretary of State be and he hereby is authorized and directed to transmit duly certified copies of this resolution to the President of the United States, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, the presiding officer of each house of each state legislature of the United States, and to each member of this state’s Congressional delegation.

Lessig’s call for a Constitutional Convention is certainly timely in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Citizens United case.  While getting 34 state legislatures to call for a federal constitutional convention might seem like a difficult task, getting Congress to limit campaign contributions is astronomically more difficult.

To join the movement to call for a Constitutional Convention, click here.

North Providence Councilmen Burchfield, Douglas & Zambarano Arrested and Arraigned

Three North Providence town councilmen, including the President of the Town Council, were arrested by federal agents today on criminal complaints charging them with extortion and accepting a bribe. It is alleged the councilmen accepted a $25,000 bribe in return for favorable votes on a zoning change for a retail development project. U.S. Attorney Peter F. Neronha announced the arrests of Council President Joseph S. Birchfield, and Town Councilmen Raymond L. Douglas III and John A. Zambarano.

To be clear, a complaint is merely an allegation and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Birchfield, 42, Douglas, 42, and Zambarano, 47, all residents of North Providence, were arrested earlier today by FBI agents. Each made an initial appearance in U.S. District Court before Magistrate Judge David L. Martin, who released the defendants on $50,000 unsecured bond. Extortion is punishable by a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison. Bribery is punishable by a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.

According to affidavits filed with the U.S. District Court, the three councilmen voted in favor of amending the Town’s Comprehensive Plan to re-zone a six-acre parcel of land from Commercial Professional and Residential General to Commercial General use in exchange for a $25,000 cash payment from the developer. The developer sought a zoning change to allow for the construction of a supermarket on Plympton Street near Mineral Spring Avenue.

In late summer 2008, the developer began discussions with the Town of North Providence to develop the land. The supermarket project was first presented to the Town Council in early October 2008. The matter came before the council on several occasions before a vote to approve the zoning change occurred on February 10, 2009. The vote to approve the project was 7-0.

The defendants held several meetings and discussions planning their actions and to affect payment of the bribe money. The bribe was delivered by the developer’s attorney to Zambarano. Disbursement of the bribe money was completed the day after the council’s February 10th vote.

The matter is being investigated by the FBI, with the assistance of Rhode Island State Police, Providence Police, DEA, and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys John P. McAdams and Terrence P. Donnelley.

Bill Ferland Joins RI US Attorney’s Office

William J. Ferland, a top criminal prosecutor for 20 years with the Rhode Island Attorney General’s Office, joined the staff of the Rhode Island U. S. Attorney’s Office today.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Ferland will primarily prosecute organized crime, drug and firearm cases.

“Bill is a smart, experienced, and extremely dedicated prosecutor,” noted U.S. Attorney Peter F. Neronha. “He is well-respected by judges, fellow prosecutors, law enforcement, and the defense bar alike.  He handled hundreds of significant felony cases, and the fact that he has prosecuted nearly two dozen homicide cases demonstrates the confidence that the various Attorneys General he has worked for have placed in him.”

A former patrolman, detective and police sergeant in East Greenwich from 1982-1990, Ferland served in numerous capacities as a R.I. Assistant Attorney General, including Chief of the Criminal Division; Chief of the Narcotics and Organized Crime Unit; and Chief of the Welfare Fraud Unit. He most recently served as Senior Trial Counsel, coordinating and overseeing the investigation and prosecution of high profile felony matters.  Ferland graduated magna cum laude from Rhode Island College in May 1982. He earned his Juris Doctor and graduated magna cum laude from New England School of Law in 1989.  Ferland has served as an adjunct faculty member at Roger Williams University Metropolitan College and the Community College of Rhode Island providing instruction in criminal law. He has also served as an instructor at the Rhode Island Police Training Academy.