Your Day in Court

 An Introductory Guide to the Rhode Island Judiciary

Like the judge and court personnel, all parties play important roles in creating a positive and respectful environment in our courts. While in court, you have the right to be treated with fairness, respect, and dignity by everyone that you encounter. In return, you have an obligation to follow the court rules and to treat all those that you encounter with courtesy and respect.​

 Representing Yourself

​You may represent yourself in a lawsuit. In criminal matters, you have a constitutional right to represent yourself. In civil matters, there is no such right but you may choose to do so. However, in some cases where a corporation is a party, attorneys are required to appear on the corporation’s behalf.

Although you can represent yourself, when you enter the courtroom you are tasked with having the same knowledge of the court process as an attorney. ​

 Preparing for Your Court Day

  • Check your court date, location, and time. You can find information relating to your court date, location, and time on the ​Calendars and Public Access to Court Hearings.
  • Dress appropriately for court. Do not wear hats, T-shirts, halter tops, shorts, or torn jeans. Be certain that your clothing is neat and clean.
  • Arrive on time! Please note the importance of being on time to court. Failure to appear in a timely manner may result in a warrant for your arrest or other court orders against you.  Give yourself additional time to find parking, go through the security check point, and to find your courtroom.  Best practices are to arrive at the courthouse at least thirty (30) minutes ahead of your scheduled court time. 
  • Bring all court notices and necessary paperwork with you to court. ​​​

 Parking at the Courthouses

  • Licht Judicial Complex (Providence, Rhode Island): Private lots and garages for a fee and on-street parking available. The accessible entrance is located at the South Main Street entrance.  
  • Noel Judicial Complex (Warwick, Rhode Island): Free parking.  Main entrance is the accessible entrance. 
  • McGrath Judicial Complex (Wakefield, Rhode Island): Free parking. Main entrance is the accessible entrance. 
  • Murray Judicial Complex (Newport, Rhode Island): On-street parking with meters.  The accessible entrance is located on Touro Street. 
  • Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal (Cranston, Rhode Island): Free parking. Main entrance is the accessible entrance. 

 What to Expect When You Arrive at Court

​Upon entering the courthouse, you will be greeted and screened by the Capitol Police. Be prepared to clear security. You will have to pass through a metal detector. You may be asked to empty your pockets and to remove your belt and/or shoes.  Individuals who refuse to submit to security screening will not be allowed to enter the courthouse.

The following items are not permitted in the building:

  • Weapons of any type;
  • Cutting instruments of any type, including knives, scissors, or anything with a cutting;
  • Sharp objects, including knitting needles;
  • Tools of any type;
  • Aerosol sprays or containers, including mace, pepper spray, hairspray, etc.;
  • Photographic or audio-visual equipment of any type, including cameras, video, or audio recorders or players; and

Capitol Police will not hold any personal property that is not permitted in the courthouse. 

 Tips for Your Day in Court

  • ​​Most matters will be in a public courtroom. This means you will be able to observe public court proceedings while you wait for your case to be called. Sit and wait quietly in the courtroom until your case is called. Please note that some Family Court hearings are confidential and are closed proceedings. You may be asked to leave the courtroom. 
  • When speaking to the judge, speak clearly and loud enough to be heard by the judge and the other side. Refer to the judge as “Your Honor” or “Judge” and speak with respect. 
  • Stand when speaking to the judge. Do not approach the judge.
  • Be respectful to everyone. 
  • Cellular telephone use is strictly prohibited in the courtrooms. Cellular telephone cameras and videos are strictly prohibited in the courthouse. 
  • Be sure to plan for the care of young children. Children are allowed in the courtrooms as long as the children are not disruptive during the proceedings. There is no daycare service at any of the courthouses. 
  • Be prepared to pay court fines when ordered to do so. 
  • Be prepared to pay filing fees if you are filing a petition or a complaint. You can contact the clerk before coming to court to determine your filing fee. 
  • Keep track of the next steps. Your case may not be heard and finished in one day. You may need to return to court on several occasions before your case is concluded. Be sure you keep track of the next steps and what is expected of you at your next court date. 

 Seeking Help From Court Staff

Court staff strive to treat all court users in a fair, neutral, unbiased, impartial, and helpful manner. Court staff are available at each court to answer questions about the legal process. Court staff may not provide you with legal advice or guidance.

Court staff may help by providing the following general information: 

  • Provide information on court rules, procedures, and practices, or direct you to the State Law Library in the courthouse;
  • Answer questions about the court system and how the courts work including information on court schedules and calendars, deadlines or due dates, and provide information about court programs;
  • Help you view your court file or other public files and provide copies of documents (a fee may apply); and
  • Provide court forms and give general instructions on how to complete court forms.

Court staff cannot provide the following information:

  • Legal advice or answer questions that involve making decisions about options, assessing risks and benefits, and analyzing potential outcomes;
  • Tell you whether to file a case or what specific action to take;
  • Allow you to talk to a judge or magistrate privately or give them any messages on your behalf;
  • Give out information that allows one party an advantage over another;
  • Change or alter any court records in a file;
  • Conduct legal research on your behalf;
  • Tell you what to say in court;
  • Prepare a court order for you or any other document after a hearing; and
  • Predict the probable outcome of your case.

If you need legal advice or guidance you must contact an attorney.