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Rhode Island Affiliate, American Civil Liberties Union

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Open Government Court Cases

Government transparency and fair and impartial elections are crucial to the functioning of a democratic society. The RI ACLU uses the courtroom to hold the government accountable to these principles.


Lavik v. DMV (2011-ongoing)

A lawsuit challenging the Division of Motor Vehicle’s actions in refusing to reinstate a person’s driver’s license based on a “policy” that appears nowhere in the agency’s rules and regulations. The lawsuit, filed in R.I. Superior Court on behalf of Warwick resident Marc Lavik, argues that the DMV’s actions are in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), an important state law that requires agencies to provide advance notice and a public comment period before adopting policies that affect members of the public.  Cooperating Attorneys: Albin Moser and Melissa Braatz
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Moura v. East Providence School Committee (2010)

An Open Meetings Act (OMA) lawsuit against the East Providence School Committee for illegally meeting in private on September 8, 2009 to allegedly discuss what it called a “Public Comment Lawsuit.”
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Fontes V. City of Central Falls. (2009)

Federal lawsuit on behalf of Central Falls Mayoral candidate Hipolito Fontes, arguing that the local Board of Canvassers acted unconstitutionally in disqualifying him from the ballot earlier this month for allegedly failing to submit sufficient nomination signatures.  Cooperating Attorneys: Armando Batastini and Timothy Baldwin
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Phoenix Times Publishing Company V. Barrington School Committee (2009)

An Open Meetings Act (OMA) lawsuit against the Barrington School Committee for unlawfully meeting in closed session this past February to discuss the merits of instituting a mandatory breathalyzer policy for all students attending school dances.  Cooperating Attorneys: Howard Merten and Keith Fayan
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Block V. Mollis (2009-ongoing)

The Rhode Island ACLU filed a federal lawsuit against Rhode Island elections officials on behalf of the Moderate Party of Rhode Island (MPRI), challenging the State’s restrictive ballot access laws. The lawsuit, filed by RI ACLU volunteer attorney Mark W. Freel, argues that the laws unconstitutionally impede the ability of fledgling groups like MPRI from gaining formal recognition as a political party.
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Montiero v. City of East Providence (2009-ongoing)

A federal lawsuit against the City of East Providence, challenging City Charter provisions that impose increased burdens, above and beyond what state law requires, on candidates who wish to run for local office. Cooperating Attorney: Angel Taveras
News Release | Lawsuit

R.I. ACLU v. Carcieri. (2008-ongoing)

ACCESS TO PUBLIC RECORDS. Open records lawsuit against the Governor for refusing to release documents relating to the chain of command for state governance during the Governor’s absence from the state. Cooperating Attorney: Kathleen Managhan
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R.I. ACLU v. R.I. State Board of Elections. (2008-ongoing)

RIGHTS OF VOTERS. Lawsuit challenging a Board of Elections’ regulation allowing municipalities to conduct same-day registration and voting for President and Vice-President in places instead of city or town hall, despite a statutory mandate to the contrary. Orders were entered requiring restoration of appropriate voting arrangements at each of the municipalities involved. Cooperating Attorney: Angel Taveras
News Release | Lawsuit

R.I. Parents for Progress v. Board of Elections. (2004-ongoing)

VOTING RIGHTS. Lawsuit challenging the Board of Elections’ plan to disqualify the “provisional ballots” cast by voters who registered by mail after January 1, 2003 if they failed to provide acceptable identification at the polling place. In 2004, shortly after the suit was filed, the Board reversed its position and agreed to count those ballots. A motion for attorneys’ fees is pending. Cooperating Attorney: John W. Dineen
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R.I. ACLU v. Cirillo. (2005)

OPEN RECORDS. Open records lawsuit against the Foster-Glocester School District for failing to respond to requests for copies of policies and forms governing the release of student directory information to military recruiters. The defendants turned over the documents the day after suit was filed, and the case was voluntarily dismissed after defendants agreed to a monetary settlement. Cooperating Attorney: Karen Davidson
News Release

Rhode Island Affiliate, ACLU v. Moran. (2007)

OPEN RECORDS. Open records lawsuit challenging the Central Falls police department’s refusal to release the report regarding the fatal shooting of a local resident by police. A court ordered release of the records. Cooperating Attorneys: Howard Merten, Keith Fayan
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Butterfield v. Gemma. (2005)

OPEN RECORDS. Open records lawsuit challenging Town of North Smithfield’s requirement that a person provide his or her name and e-mail address in order to gain access to an on-line database of tax assessment records. The Town agreed to eliminate the requirement. Cooperating Attorney: Karen Davidson
News Release

Cullen v. Town of Lincoln. (2004)

RIGHTS OF VOTERS. Lawsuit challenging the legality of a September run-off “preliminary election” for non-partisan at-large school committee seats in Lincoln to be decided in November. A consent judgment was entered, formally declaring null and void both the “preliminary” election results and the town ordinance authorizing this election procedure. Cooperating Attorney: Annie Goldberg
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Metts v. Almond. (2002-2004)

VOTING RIGHTS. “Friend of the court” brief filed on appeal in this redistricting lawsuit, arguing that the lower court used an improper legal standard in dismissing claims that black voting power on the South Side of Providence was improperly diluted by recently redrawn Senate district lines. A panel of the appellate court agreed, as did the full court upon reconsideration. The legislature then redrew the district lines, and the suit was voluntarily dismissed. Cooperating Attorney: Jerry Elmer
News Release

see additional Open Government court cases:

R.I. Coalition Against Domestic Violence v. Carcieri. (2008-ongoing)

Pehrson v. Reynolds. (2008)

Brown v. Esserman. (2007-ongoing)

Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE) v. Gannon. (1995)


Open Government Cases Over the Years

Highlights from court cases since the early 1970s in each of the areas below:


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Learn more about the distinction between these two components of the RI ACLU.