Katherine Gregg has devoted another Providence Journal Political Scene to the worthy topic of the political connections of Rhode Island magistrates and judges. Long before knowing the score, on this count, anybody who takes an interest in Rhode Island governance learns that justice is best sought in federal courts, because Rhode Island’s system is (let’s say) not to be trusted.
With this anecdote, Gregg gives a sense of why:
A former public defender, [now Superior Court Judge Patrick] Burke had been at the center of a controversial court case that evolved from his arrest by the Warwick police in 1993 after they observed his car weaving on Route 2 around 2:30 a.m. The police charged him with refusing to submit to a portion of the breath test. The traffic court suspended his license and scheduled a hearing. Burke’s lawyer — then Speaker Harwood — filed for dismissal in 1996, saying the multiple delays in scheduling the hearing deprived Burke of his right to a speedy trial. A judge dismissed the charge.
This anecdote was 20 years ago, and we certainly have no reason to believe that things have improved. How can Rhode Islanders have confidence in a judiciary that operates like this?