Joseph R. Rodgers, Jr., presiding Justice of the Rhode Island Superior Court since 1991, is the youngest judge in modern Rhode Island history to be appointed to both the District and Superior courts. In 1974, at age 33, he became associate justice of the District Court and was elevated to the Superior Court in 1976. Justice Rodgers has served on that tribunal, the state’s main trial court, for over 31 1/2 years, longer than any other Superior Court judge in Rhode Island history.
After graduation from Providence College, from which he received an honorary degree in 2001, Rodgers earned his law degree from Boston University School of Law. Prior to his appointment to the judiciary, Rodgers was a member of the Rhode Island Senate from 1967-1974, serving as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and vice chairman of the Senate Labor Committee. He was a past president of the Young Democrats of Rhode Island and a 1971 graduate of the Eagleton Institute of Politics.
As a Superior Court justice, Rodgers was responsible for organizing the nation’s first Gun Court, an initiative that was successful in achieving increased jail time for offenders while dramatically reducing the disposition time of gun cases. Rogers is also responsible for reducing the trial delay of civil cases in Providence County from five years in 1990 to less than two years today, thus diminishing the backlog of civil cases by 49 percent in the last ten years.
Rogers’ tenure as presiding justice has been marked by many additional accomplishments, including the development of the Superior Court Rules of Civil and Criminal Procedure, the initiation of a Mediation program, the expansion of the Arbitration Program to the state’s counties, the creation of a Drug Court for adult offenders, and the establishment of the Business Calender to track and resolve issues affecting jobs and businesses.
Judge Rodgers has been an instructor of law at Roger Williams University and also taught classes in law at Providence College and at the Community College of Rhode Island. He chaired the state’s Commission on Judicial Tenure and Discipine from 1980-1986.
A native of South Providence, Rodgers now resides in Saunderstown with his wife, the former Donna Boudreau. He is the father of three: Joey and Kristin both are lawyers in Providence and Ted, is a counselor at the Family Court.
–(Dr.) Patrick T. Conley