Injustice Experienced By Attorney Amelia Edwards In Rhode Island

The RI Supreme Court Slaps Attorney Edwards For Telling The Truth

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From the Providence Journal March 10, 1999: The Rhode Island Supreme Court ruled in 1998 that the Ethics Commission had to dismiss an investigation because it wasn't completed within 300 days. This ruling was significant because the commission now felt they had to dismiss cases against such prominent figures as former Speaker of the House Matthew J. Smith; former Secretary of State Barbara M. Leonard; Robert Halpin, deputy traffic court administrator; and Stephen T. Day, the former president of the Providence firefighter's union who also chaired the city Retirement Board's investment committee.

Att. Amelia E. Edwards, attorney for the Commission in this time limit case, filed a July 20, 1998 petition for reargument with the RI Supreme Court. Att. Edwards called the court's ruling, "a shocking display of judicial indiscretion" and an example of "judicial activism at its worst, in which the Court first determined what result it wished to reach and then squeezed its rationale to fit the result." The petition also stated the court "twists the facts," commits "egregious" errors, ignores its own precedents and overlooks or fails to grasp the commission's procedures and arguments. The brief also reminded Justice Robert G. Flanders Jr. that when he was a practicing lawyer representing a public official charged with ethics violations he "never questioned or challenged" the Ethics Commission's interpretation of the rules.

The RI Supreme Court rejected the petition "without merit" and fined Att. Edwards $1,500 to be paid to opposing counsel. Att. Edwards paid the fine under protest. The Justices said Att. Edwards used remarks that were

"contemptuous and demeaning to this Court. The intemperate statements and disrespectful tone cannot be disregarded. Such offensive language completely disregards and undermines the efforts that this Court has initiated and encouraged in its attempts to promote civility in our courts."

Att. Edwards stated, "it seems the RI Supreme Court is not held accountable for its actions, and that's unfortunate. In my mind, the RI Supreme Court violated my due process and free speech rights and it did so without any notice or hearing and without applying any kind of standard so other attorneys will know what you can or cannot do." The ACLU agreed and attempted to get the US Supreme Court to review the ruling without success. The ACLU also pointed out:

  • this ruling can have a chilling effect on Attorneys and could hurt clients and
  • the Justices, many times, criticize each other's decisions much more harshly and at much greater length than Att. Edwards did and
  • Att. Edwards actions was a procedure that's available under Rhode Island Supreme Court rules.
Note: this brief which was rejected outright by the RI Supreme Court contained in part:
  • Eight paragraphs detailing factual inaccuracies in the RI Supreme Court opinion and
  • Extensive documentation showing the RI Supreme Court impermissibly legislated by reading into the phrase "complete its investigation" the very language which the General Assembly had deleted when it amended the statute and
  • Five pages of extensive documentation on how the RI Supreme Court failed to apply it's own well-established precedent and instead construed the statute according to it's particular whim.

Yet the RI Supreme Court rejected the petition "without merit" and fined Att. Edwards $1,500 to be paid to opposing counsel.


Many times the reason or purpose for events in our life initially escapes us,
but I am certain we can find reason and/or purpose in everything that happens!

It takes a short time to learn to exercise power, but a lifetime to learn how to avoid abusing it.

We are no longer a country of laws, we are a country where laws are "creatively interpreted."

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