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Paul Suttell

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Paul Suttell
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Court Information:
Rhode Island Supreme Court
Title:   Chief Justice
Salary:  $182,000
Appointed by:   Donald Carcieri
Active:   1990 - present
Chief:   2009 - present
Past post:   Rhode Island Family Court
Past term:   1990 - 2003
Past position:   Judge
Personal History
Born:   January 10, 1949
Party:   Republican
Undergraduate:   Northwestern University, 1971
Law School:   Suffolk University Law School, 1976

Paul Suttell is the chief justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court. Suttell was sworn in on July 9, 2003, after Governor Donald Carcieri appointed him to the court.[1] In 2009, Carcieri nominated Suttell for the post of chief justice. Suttell was unanimously confirmed by the Senate.[2][3]

The justices of the Rhode Island Supreme Court hold office for life.


Suttell received his B.A. from Northwestern University in 1971 and in 1976, his J.D. from the Suffolk University Law School.[4]


After graduating from law school, Suttell worked with the Newport County Convention and Visitors Bureau. From 1979 to 1982, he served Legal Counsel to the House Minority Leader. Next, he became a State Representative in the Rhode Island House of Representatives. He served in this capacity for seven years, and in 1988, was a delegate to the Republican National Convention. In 1990, he joined the Rhode Island Family Court, where he served until joining the Rhode Island Supreme Court in 2003.[5]

Awards and associations

  • Member, American Academy of Adoption Attorneys
  • Moderator and Trustee, Little Compton United Congregational Church
  • Director, Little Compton Historical Society[5]

Notable cases

Breathalyzer penalties

In June 2008 the Supreme Court ruled that stronger penalties approved in 2006 apply to motorists who refuse to take Breathalyzer tests, according to The Providence Journal's Edward Fitzpatrick. The court rejected the argument that new penalties were wiped out when Governor Carcieri signed a budget bill containing the law’s old language. Justice Paul A. Suttell began the court’s 13-page opinion with a quote: "If you like laws and sausage, you should never watch either one being made."[6]

Political ideology

See also: Political ideology of State Supreme Court Justices

In October 2012, political science professors Adam Bonica and Michael Woodruff of Stanford University attempted to determine the partisan ideology of state supreme court justices in their paper, State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns. A score above 0 indicated a more conservative leaning ideology while scores below 0 are more liberal. Suttell received a Campaign finance score (CFscore) of -0.39, indicating a liberal ideological leaning. This is less liberal than the average CF score of -0.50 that justices received in Rhode Island. The study is based on data from campaign contributions by judges themselves, the partisan leaning of contributors to the judges or, in the absence of elections, the ideology of the appointing body (governor or legislature). This study is not a definitive label of a justice, but an academic gauge of various factors.[7]

External links