HCC Participating in Statewide Initiative to Empower Youth

This year, Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney will play a leadership role in participating in PrepareRI’s virtual internship program. PrepareRI is a statewide initiative aimed at helping all Rhode Island youth acquire the skills they need for worthwhile positions in the workforce. PrepareRI is one of the most ambitious plans in the nation to improve youth career readiness.

This program offers a special kind of independent study for a group of R.I. high school students. The program culminates in a competition, with each member of the winning team receiving a $5,000 scholarship.

Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney attorneys Kristina I. Hultman and Tyler J. Pare are spearheading the firm’s effort. They will serve as coaches to support their team through the student-run operations and ensure that interns meet their goals. Coaches also provide feedback on weekly assignments, guidance on the final presentation, and advice to student-run endeavors. In preparation for their roles as coaches, Kristina and Tyler will begin training sessions in early June.

Students will create an opinion for the “client” – a school district or superintendent. The students will advise their client on drafting district’s student handbook and policies in advance of a forthcoming U.S. Supreme Court decision.

This year, the problem or assignment that students face concerns schools and the First Amendment and is based upon a U.S. Supreme Court case that was just argued in April.

In 2017, 14-year-old Brandi Levy failed to earn a place on both her high school’s varsity cheerleading and the school’s softball team. She then proceeded to post a photograph of herself on Instagram waving her middle finger with multiple references to an obscenity. As a result, Brandi was then kicked off the junior varsity cheerleading squad by school officials. After school officials would not reverse their decision, Brandi’s father brought a federal lawsuit against the school district.

The trial court ordered the teenager back on the junior varsity squad, but now the case is before the U.S. Supreme Court. While the Supreme Court had previously ruled that public schools could punish disruptive speech in school, this case addresses whether that ruling extends to speech outside of school. A decision by the nine justices is expected this summer.

The PrepareRI’s virtual internship program starts July 19th and runs through the end of the summer. There is also an interdisciplinary component to the program since volunteers from the field of education will be assisting students.

June 8th, 2021|

New R.I. Superior Court Mediation Program Offered

Counsel may now request that cases currently assigned to the trial calendar in Providence County be mediated by one of the justices who is currently assigned to the trial calendar.

Members of the bar who are interested in pursuing this option, should complete the COVID-19 Mediation Submission Form found on the Superior Court website.

The R.I. Superior Court has never ceased operations during the pandemic and in fact has undertaken significant measures to allow jury trials to continue on a limited basis in Providence County while the COVID-19 restrictions remain in place.

As a result of the pandemic, the court was forced to adapt quickly to a new set of social standards to protect and preserve the health, safety and welfare of court users and court employees. Specifically, this required implementing measures to restrict crowds, while at the same time safely providing necessary in-person access to justice for the most critical matters.

Given these limitations and the court’s current inability to schedule more than two jury trials at any one time, the court is offering this mediation program to assist counsel and their clients.

Superior Court Presiding Justice Alice Bridget Gibney authored the order implementing this new mediation program.

May 13th, 2021|

The R.I. Superior Court Announces New Initiative to Address Recent Backlog

The R.I. Superior Court has begun identifying cases for settlement or mediation that are assigned to the Trial Calendar to aggressively address the backlog of civil cases caused by the pandemic.

Presiding Justice Alice B. Gibney and Judge Maureen B. Keough, who is currently in charge of the Pre-Trial/Trial Calendar in Providence County, are spearheading this effort. Judge Linda Rekas Sloan will assist Judge Keough throughout this process. More information will follow.

The Defense Counsel of Rhode Island, of which HCC is a longstanding member, was active in its comment and support of this fledgling program. The firm continues to utilize all methods of ADR to successfully and efficiently resolve our clients’ litigation matters and looks forward to taking advantage of this new opportunity.

April 20th, 2021|

James A. Ruggieri Interviewed by Lawyers Weekly on a Return to Normalcy as Vaccinations Accelerate

Recently, Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney managing partner James A. Ruggieri was quoted extensively in an article in Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly that examined how law firms across the state are coping with the aftereffects of the pandemic following a year of working mainly on a remote basis.

Attorneys at Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney have mostly returned to work at the firm’s Providence headquarters even though the office remains closed to visitors. Employees must strictly adhere to distancing and masking protocols, and temperatures of everyone entering the office are also taken.

James Ruggieri also told Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly: “We will always be vigilant in looking at CDC and state guidelines, and we are still a bit more conservative than we could be. I feel extremely comfortable that we have done extremely well. We have not let our guard down at all.”

“For medium-sized law firms like Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney, we are not outliers in having reopened office operations in a responsible and flexible fashion. Such an approach is especially true with firms like ours that have extensive, time-sensitive litigation practices. Nonetheless, many larger firms in other states have been far more reticent in having their employees return to their corporate hallways.” he noted.

James Ruggieri believes that remote operations will always remain to some degree and outlive the pandemic. “Routine” depositions will likely be continued through Zoom or Webex, with platforms such as AgileLaw offering necessary technical support to allow users to view voluminous documents, he said.

But for “critical” depositions, such as those involving a key expert or a key witness, he believes that these proceedings will continue to be conducted live and in person.

March 31st, 2021|

The R.I. Superior Court Issues New Operating Guidelines, No Trials Before June 1, 2021

The R.I. Superior Court has issued new protocols to ensure the continuation of court business while also safeguarding court users and court personnel. These new directives will take effect on Monday, March 15, 2021.

For the most part, the court will continue to operate remotely. A summary of several significant provisions of the recent court order follows.

Trial Calendar. The court will continue all trials until sometime after June 1, 2021.

  • Bench Trials. Parties may contact the Presiding Justice if they would like to discuss a possible bench trial.
  • Pre-trial Motions. For cases that are ready for trial, counsel may contact the court to discuss assigning matters to a trial judge as well as to address any pre-trial motions that may help streamline the case or potentially lead to an agreed upon resolution.

Control Calendar. Counsel are encouraged to discuss potential resolutions in their pending cases. If after discussions, the parties determine that they require a conference with the court, they may request an in-person meeting or a WebEx /telephone conference to discuss a potential resolution of the case or other issues that require timely assistance.

Arbitration Calendar. Matters scheduled on the arbitration calendar shall be decided on the papers. If the parties wish to discuss a particular issue, they may schedule a WebEx conference.

Again, this is a summary of recent developments in civil cases before the R.I. Superior Court. There may be some minor differences for criminal cases. In any event, the complete text of the court order, issued by Justice Maureen B. Keough and titled “Courtroom 4 Protocol – Winter/Spring 2021,” is available here.

March 9th, 2021|