Rhode Island's former Superior Court presiding justice dies

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The retired presiding justice of the Rhode Island Superior Court has died.

A court spokesman in an emailed statement said Joseph F. Rodgers Jr. died at his South Kingstown home early Friday. He was 78. The statement did not give a cause of death, but his daughter, Superior Court Justice Kristin Rodgers, told The Providence Journal he has been in declining health for several years.

Rodgers was the youngest judge in modern Rhode Island history when he was appointed to the District Court bench at the age of 32 in 1974. Two years later, he was appointed an associate justice of the Superior Court. After 15 years, Rodgers was appointed by Gov. Bruce Sundlun in 1991 to be presiding justice, the court’s chief judge.

He led the court until his retirement in 2009.

During his tenure, he organized the nation’s first gun calendar, started drug and business court programs and reduced jury services times to two days or one trial.

He was a graduate of Providence College and Boston University School of Law. he is survived by his wife, three children and two grandchildren.

No funeral services were announced.