Rhode Island Supreme Court selection of justices

The Rhode Island Supreme Court is the state’s court of last resort and has five judgeships. The current chief of the court is Paul Suttell.

The selection of supreme court justices begins with the Judicial Nominating Commission. The commission is composed of nine members. Five of the members must be attorneys. Various elected officials must submit lists of nominations for commission members. The governor receives those lists and then makes his or her selection for the commission seat. The governor picks one name from each of five lists compiled by the speaker of the Rhode Island House, the president of the Rhode Island Senate, the speaker and the president together, and the minority leaders of both houses respectively. The governor selects the final four members of the commission, but without any requirement that he do so from a previously prepared list.

This governor controlled commission submits three to five names to the Governor of Rhode Island, and upon receiving the names, the governor selects and appoints one. The appointed justice must then be approved by both the state senate and house of representatives.

Justices of the Rhode Island Supreme Court hold office for life. The seat of one Rhode Island Supreme Court justice, Justice Gilbert Indeglia, will be open upon Indeglia’s retirement on June 30.

Indeglia was a Republican member of the Rhode Island House of Representatives from 1985 to 1991. From 1989 to 2000, he served on the Rhode Island District Court. He joined the Rhode Island Superior Court in 2000 and served there until his appointment to the Rhode Island Supreme Court in 2010.

As of March 2020, all five justices on the court were appointed by a Republican governor. This will be Democratic Governor Gina Raimondo’s first appointment to Rhode Island’s highest court. She assumed office on January 6, 2015. Her current term ends on January 3, 2023.

Additional Reading:
Rhode Island Supreme Court
Rhode Island Judicial Nominating Commission
Gilbert v. Indeglia