Judge Frank Caprio

Inducted: 2019
Born: 1936

Frank Caprio was a lawyer, politician, judge, and philanthropist born in Providence, Rhode Island, on Nov. 24, 1936. He served as chief judge of the municipal court of Providence, Rhode Island, and chairman of the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education. His judicial work was televised on the program Caught in Providence and went viral in 2017 with more than 15 million views. The show depicts real cases heard in his Providence Municipal courtroom. Some stories are touching, others outlandish, but Judge Caprio’s compassionate form of justice is always fully displayed. He became known as the nicest judge in the world for his rulings on “Caught in Providence.” In 2022, views of Caught in Providence neared 500 million, and one episode had 43 million views on YouTube. On social media, viral videos of Judge Caprio display his mix of compassion and humor while he dispenses justice. This scenario has been viewed over two billion times and documented by the worldwide media. Judge Caprio captured hearts worldwide with his compassionate and deeply human interaction inside and outside the courtroom.

Caprio was born in the Italian American neighborhood of Federal Hill, Providence, the second of three sons of Antonio Caprio, an immigrant from Teano, Italy, and Filomena Caprio, an Italian American mother from Providence. They were among the thousands of immigrants who sought and found a new life in America through hard work, devotion to family, and love of their adopted country and community. His parents sold fruit from a pushcart on Federal Hill, where they raised their three sons. In their cold-water flat, family love sparked Frank’s ambitions. Long before he became a judge, young Frank shined shoes, delivered newspapers, and worked on a milk truck, following his parents’ example of working hard to better the lives of those around him. This upbringing ingrained in Frank an extraordinary ability to view the world from the perspective of others. He put this ability to good use, dedicating his life to service.

Caprio attended Providence public schools while working as a dishwasher and shoe-shiner. He graduated from Central High School, winning the state title in wrestling in 1953. Caprio served in the National Guard from 1954 to 1962 in the 876th Combat Engineer Battalion. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Providence College in 1957. After graduating, he taught government at Hope High School in Providence, attended night school at Suffolk University in Boston, and obtained his law degree. His law firm, located at 1 Center Place at the entrance to Federal Hill, includes his sons, Frank and David, and his cousin, Anthony Caprio. In addition to his legal career, the judge has been involved as a partner in Coast Guard House Restaurant in Narragansett, Rhode Island.

Caprio was elected to the Providence City Council in 1962 and served until 1968. He was elected as a delegate to the Rhode Island Constitutional Convention in 1975 and was a delegate to five Democratic National Conventions. He chaired the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education, which controls significant decisions for the University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College, and the Community College of Rhode Island.

Caprio was also a member of the Board of Regents of Elementary Education and Secondary Education and the Governors Pre-K through 16 Council on Education. He is a member of the President’s Council at Providence College. He was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Law by his alma mater, Suffolk University School of Law, in 1991 and Providence College in 2008. He received an Honorary Doctor of Public Service from the University of Rhode Island in 2016. He is the first recipient of the Enrico Caruso Award from the Providence Opera for his significant contributions to the arts. He was the commencement speaker for Boston University School of Law in 2020.

Caprio is a legendary philanthropist. He founded the Antonio “Tup” Caprio Scholarship Fund at Suffolk University. He established scholarships at Providence College and Central High School, which were also named for his father. Caprio is also involved in the Boys Town of Italy, the Nickerson House Juvenile Court, and the Rhode Island Food Bank. In 1983, he co-chaired the Rhode Island Statue of Liberty Foundation, raising funds to restore the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. In 2021, Caprio started the Filomena Fund, named after his mother, which pays and supports people who cannot pay for traffic violations.

Judge Caprio and his wife, Joyce, have five children, seven grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

Judge Frank Caprio was inducted into The Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame in 2019.

For additional reading:

  • “80-year-old judge becomes unlikely internet star,” My 11, 2019.
  • “Judge Frank Caprio Wants Justice for All,” Feb. 20, 2019.
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