Appeal number 00-129. Mr. Picerno was cited for 5 statutory motor vehicle infractions. At traffic court one charge was dismissed and the rest were sustained. Mr. Picerno appealed. The 3 judge appellate panel upheld the traffic court with Judge Lillian Almeida dissenting on several charges. Mr. Picerno appealed again.
Mr. Picerno asserts the appointment of Tribunal Master Veiga was void and in contravention of Article X, Section 4 of the Rhode Island Constitution. Mr. Picerno asserts it is unconstitutional for the legislature to rename a Court a Tribunal and Judges Magistrates, thereby avoiding the appointment requirements of Article X of the Rhode Island Constitution. The current Tribunal possesses all of the jurisdiction granted the former Administrative Adjudication Court. Former Judges of the AAC now sit as "Judges" in the Tribunal. Current "Magistrates" in the Tribunal are given, in all respect, all of the jurisdiction conferred on Tribunal Judges. If the real intent of the legislature in creating the Tribunal was to downgrade the status of the AAC, and reduce the pay of subsequent magistrates in Tribunal, these goals could have been accomplished by means other than violating the Constitution. Magistrate Veiga had no jurisdiction over Mr. Picerno, nor did she have jurisdiction over the charges. Mr. Picerno's adjudications should therefore be dismissed in their entirety. As to non-constitutional issues on appeal, the state failed to prove necessary elements to sustain findings on the four remaining charges. As a consequence, all charges should be dismissed.
In classic legal double speak, the Traffic Appellate Panel's second ruling is that the position filled by Magistrate Veiga was not a "vacancy" but rather a "response" to a newly created position. This further proves that Law no longer matters. The courts will "creatively interpret" law until they nullify whatever law they choose not to follow or avoid whatever issue they choose not to rule on.
TOWN OF JOHNSTON V. CHARLES PICERNO - DECISION PER CURIAM;
Before this panel on April 19, 2006, Judge Almeida (Chair), Judge Ciullo, and Judge Parker sitting, is Charles Picerno's (Appellant) appeal from a decision of the Johnston Municipal Court, sustaining the charged violation of G.L. 1956 § 31-22-23, "Tow Trucks - Identification required." Appellant appeared before this panel represented by counsel. Jurisdiction is pursuant to G.L. 1956 § 31-41.1-8.
FACTS AND TRAVEL
On October 5, 2005, at approximately 11:30 a.m., the Appellant was stopped by an officer from the Johnston Police Department. Subsequently, the Appellant was charged with violating section 31-22-23, "Tow Trucks - Identification required.”
At the trial the officer who had issued the Appellant the citation testified before a trial judge sitting in the Johnston Municipal Court. The officer testified that on the day in question, he was stationed on Celia Street when he observed a tow truck with white lettering on the side of the track, displaying the name and phone number of the owner of the tow truck. (Tr. at 4-5.) Because the tow truck did not display the address of the owner, it was the officer's testimony that he initiated a stop and issued the Appellant a citation for violating section 31-22-23, which requires tow trucks to display "the name, address, and telephone number of the registered owner on both sides of the vehicle.” After heanng all of the testimony presented including testimony from 'the Appellant indicating that he felt as though he had enough information on the side of his truck (Tr. at 16), the trial judge sustained the violation of section 31-22-23. It is from this decision from which the Appellant now appeals.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Pursuant to G.L, 1956 § 31-41.l-8(f) the appeals panel of the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal possesses appellate jurisdiction to review an order of a judge or magistrate of the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal. Section 31-41.1-8(f) provides in pertinent part:
"The appeals panel shall not substitute Its judgment for that of the judge or magistrate on questions of fact. The appeals panel may affirm the decision of the judge or magistrate, may remand the case for further proceedings, or may reverse or modify the decision if the substantial rights of the appellant have been prejudiced because the judge's findings, inferences, conclusions, or decisions are:
(1) In violation of constitutional or statutory pro visions
(2) In excess of the statutory authority of the judge or magistrate
(3) Made following unlawful procedure
(4) Affected by another error of law
(5) Clearly erroneous in view of the reliable, probative, and substantial evidence on the whole record; or
(6) Arbitrary, capricious, or characterized by abuse of discretion or clearly unwarranted exercise of discretion.
This panel lacks the authority to assess witness credibility or to substitute its judgment for that of the hearing judge concerning the weight of the evidence on questions of fact. Link v. State. 633 A.2d 1345 (R.I. 1993). The appeals panel is limited to a determination of whether the hearing justice's decision is supported by competent evidence. Marran v. State, 672 A.2d 875: 876 (R.I. 1996) (citing Link. 633 A.2d at 1348). The panel may reverse a decision of a hearing judge "only where the decision is clearly erroneous in light of reliable, probative, and substantial evidence, and where it is so arbitrary and capricious that it is characterized as an abuse of discretion." Costa v. Registry of Motor Vehicles, 543 A.2d 1307. 1309 (R.I. 1988).
The Appellant argues that the decision from the Johnston Municipal Court was made in excess of the statutory authority of the trial judge. Specifically, the Appellant argues that the violation of section 31-22-23. "Tow trucks - Identification required." should be dismissed because the Johnston Municipal Court did not have jurisdiction to sustain the violation.
Pursuant to G.L, 1956 § 8-18-1(1), "Legislative findings," it is clear that "the general assembly has authorized the establishment of municipal courts, pursuant to title 45, in order to promote the health and safety of the residents of each city and to insure compliance with any and all local ordinances."
Section 8-18-1(2) further indicates that there is "a compact between the state courts and the local municipal courts to establish and define jurisdictional responsibility for law enforcement powers within the state."
Accordingly, in order for a municipal court to enforce state laws and adjudicate traffic offenses, the municipal court must be established under title 45 of the Rhode Island General Laws. The following towns and cities in Rhode Island, which have established "jurisdictional responsibility for law enforcement powers." under title 45 include:
The Town of New Shoreham, G.L. 1956 § 45-2-12. Town of New
Shoreham may establish police court'
The City of Pawtucket, G.L. 1956 § 45-2-13, 'City of Pawtucket - Municipal police court - Municipal housing court.'
The City of Warwick, G.L. 1956 § 45-2-19, 'City of Warwick - Municipal court.
The City of Cranston, G.L. 1956 § 45-2-21,. 'City of Cranston - Municipal court.
The Town of Coventry. G.L. 1956 § 45-2-24, Town of Coventry - Municipal court
The City of Woonsocket G.L. 1956 § 45-2-25, 'City of Woonsocket - Municipal court.
The Town of West Warwick, G.L. 1956 § 45-2-26, 'Town of West Warwick Municipal court.
The City of Central Falls, G.L. 1956 § 45-2-27; 'City of Central Falls - Municipal court.
The Town of Westerly, G.L. 1956 § 45-2-29, Town of Westerly - Municipal court
The Town of Narragansett, G.L. 1956 § 45-2-30, Town of Narragansett - Municipal court.
The Town of Charlestown, G.L. 1956 § 45-2-32, Town of Charlestown - Municipal court.
The Town of Tiverton, G.L. 1956 § 45-2-34, Town of Tiverton - Municipal court.
The Town of Middletown, G.L. 1956 § 45-2-37, Town of Middletown - Municipal court.
The City of East Providence, G.L, 1956 § 45-2-38, 'City of East Providence — Municipal court.
The Town of Cumberland, G.L. 1956 § 45-2-44. Town of Cumberland — Municipal court.
The Town of Bristol, G.L. 1956 § 45-2-45, Town of Bristol - Municipal court.
The Town of Burrillville and the Town of North Smithfield, G.L. 1956 § 45-2-46, Towns of Burrillville and North Smithfield -Municipal court.
The Town of Warren, G.L. 1956 § 45-2-47, "Town of Warren – Municipal court.
The Town of East Greenwich, G.L. 1956 § 45-2-48, Town of East Greenwich - Municipal court.
G.L. 1956 § 45-2-49, Town of Burrillville- Municipal court.
The Town of Exeter, G.L. 1956 § 45-2-50, Town of Exeter - Municipal court.
The Town of Lincoln, G.L. 1956 §45-2-51, Town of Lincoln-Municipal court.
The Town of Johnston. however, is notably absent from the above list of towns and cities that have established jurisdiction under title 45 to adjudicate traffic offenses. therefore, after a review of the record and of the oral argument presented, it is the finding of this panel that the Johnston Municipal Court did not have jurisdiction to sustain the violation of section 31-22-23, and further finds that the trial decision was in excess of the statutory authority of the trial judge. Substantial rights of the Appellant were prejudiced. Accordingly, the Appellant's appeal is granted, and the violation of section 31-22-23 is dismissed.
Upon review of the entire record and the oral argument presented,
this Panel finds the Johnston Municipal Court decision was made in
excess of the statutory authority of the trial judge. Substantial
rights of the Appellant were prejudiced. Accordingly, the violation
of section 31-22-23, "Tow trucks - Identification required." is
dismissed, and the Appellant's appeal is granted.