Q: What does the Law Department do?
A: The City Solicitor is the the chief legal advisor and general counsel for the Mayor, the City Council and all departments, boards, commissions, bureaus and officers thereof in the matters relating to their official powers and duties. As the City’s General Counsel, the City Solicitor provides advice and opinions on matters of municipal concern, drafts leases, bonds, contracts, ordinances and rules and regulations and approves them as to form and correctness, and is frequently called upon to interpret the Providence Home Rule Charter, federal and state statutes, and other laws that govern Providence. The City Solicitor litigates all civil actions on behalf of the City and represents the City, its boards and officers in all civil trials and legal proceedings in local, state, and federal court. In addition, the City Solicitor prosecutes all complaints brought by the police which do not fall within the jurisdiction of the attorney general of the state
Q: As a resident of the City, can I go to the Law Department for legal advice?
A: No. The Law Department advises the Mayor’s Office, City Council, City Boards and Commissions, and City departments about legal issues related to their work for the City. We do not offer legal services to the public.
Q: I’m an attorney. Does the Law Department accept service on behalf of City departments, such as the police or fire department?
A: You must serve the individuals or Police and Fire Departments directly. The Law Department will accept service on behalf of the Mayor, and the Solicitor may agree to accept service for other City departments, boards and agencies.
Q: How do I file a claim for property damage and/or personal injury?
A: Claims have to be filed with the City Clerk’s Office at 25 Dorrance Street. The forms are available online and can be downloaded, filled out and filed either in person or by mail. In filling out these forms, please include as much detail about the incident as possible, and attach all required documentation.
Q: How do I check the status of my claim?
A: After 30 days, you can get a status from the Law Department’s Claims Administrator by filling out the Claims Inquiry contact form. You also can phone the Law Department at 421-7740 X333 and ask to speak to the Claims Administrator.
Q: Who is the City’s insurer?
A: The City is self-insured. This means that claims against the City are not handled by an insurance company, and any payments made come from municipal funds.
Q: How do I get copies of Public Records?
A: To request records from a Providence City Agency or Department, fill out and submit the Request for Public Records Form.
Q: Are City employees bound by Rhode Island State ethics law?
A: Public officials and employees in Rhode Island are subject to the Rhode Island State Code of Ethics (which you can read here). In addition, City of Providence employees are subject to the City’s code of ethics (which you can read here).
Q: What should I do if I believe I have been a victim of an act of discrimination?
A: The Providence Human Relations Commission (PHRC) investigates complaints and enforces laws forbidding discrimination based on race, color, gender, sexual orientation, religion, marital status, mental or physical disability, age or country of origin. Discrimination can take place in many areas including, but not limited to, housing and employment. More information is available on PHRC’s web page.
Q: If I make a complaint with the PHRC, can I also bring a complaint about the same incident to the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights?
A: Yes. One does not exclude the other. You also may have the option of taking your complaint to the Federal government, as for example, bringing an employment issue to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). These different agencies have different remedies available to them, and also different rules and limitations.
Q: Do I need to have a lawyer to talk to the PHRC or the RICHR?
A: You do not need to have a lawyer. However, you may have a lawyer represent you if you choose.
Becoming a Lawyer
To find how to become authorized to practice law in the State of Rhode Island, visit the Rhode Island Supreme Court website.
If you are interested in attending Law School, Roger Williams University has the only Law School in Rhode Island, but there are additional options in nearby states.
The local YMCA partners with the American Bar Association to offer a program for High School students interested in studying the law called “Championing Our Students.”
Finding a Lawyer
If you need legal assistance, you can search for a lawyer by location or specialty at the Rhode Island Bar Association. This site also has information about the Volunteer Lawyer Program, Lawyers for the Arts, and the Armed Forces Legal Services Project. Follow the “For the Public” link to “Finding and Choosing a Lawyer.”
Low cost or free legal assistance may be sought at the Rhode Island Office of the Public Defender (for criminal matters) or at Rhode Island Legal Services (for civil or administrative matters).
Legal Information Online
General Laws of Rhode Island are published online here.
The Rhode Island Secretary of State’s office maintains a useful website, including a searchable database of State Rules and Regulations on the Secretary of State website.
Rhode Island State Courts maintain a website here.
The Providence Home Rule Charter and complete City ordinances are online.
Open Government, Ethics & Human Rights
The Rhode Island Attorney General’s office maintains a website of information about the Open Meetings Act.
A public meetings calendar is published on the Secretary of State’s website.
Website for the Rhode Island State Ethics Commission.
Website for the Providence Human Relations Commission.
Website for the Rhode Island State Commission for Human Rights.
Website for the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Website for United States Housing and Urban Development Fair Housing.