2002 No Action
2001 No Action
2000 No Action
1998 No Action
1995 No Action
July 18, 2000
TO THE HONORABLE, THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:
In accordance with the provisions of Rhode Island General Laws § 43-1-4, I am transmitting herewith with my disapproval, 2000-H 8031, "An Act Relating to Small Claims and Consumer Claims."
This bill would allow the Chief Judge of the Rhode Island District Court to transfer small claims and consumer claims cases to the traffic tribunal for hearing. The traffic tribunal would have concurrent jurisdiction with the District Court to conduct hearings, trials and proceedings in aid of execution on all small claims and consumer claims cases pursuant to rules and regulations promulgated by the Chief Judge.
I am opposed to expanding the limited jurisdiction of the traffic tribunal to hear non-traffic cases. The traffic tribunal was created just one year ago with specific provisions establishing its powers and responsibilities over traffic-related matters only. The tribunal took the place of the troubled traffic court, and its judges were to be replaced by magistrates as needed on a going-forward basis. The final bill was a product of considered deliberation and compromise by all involved. The concept of providing traffic tribunal magistrates with District Court judge duties was specifically rejected. This Act negates that compromise. Instead of minimizing the role of the tribunal (no longer a court and staffed by magistrates) the Act proposes to expand its jurisdiction beyond that of traffic tribunal into small claims and consumer claims, presently heard by constitutional judges in District Court. For the first time, we would have disposition of real cases and controversies heard by a non-constitutional court, and by magistrates not subject to the merit selection procedures guaranteed by our Constitution.
Finally, if a surplus of traffic tribunal magistrates (or personnel) now or in the future is a basis for this Act, the solution is to reduce the size of the tribunal as the terms of magistrates expire (and to leave open vacancies as the remaining judges retire), not to try to turn it back into a court by expanding its jurisdiction.
For the foregoing reasons, I disapprove of this legislation and respectfully urge your support of this veto.