WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — A Superior Court judge sharply scolded a defense attorney in a brief but testy hearing involving a West Warwick land deal that soured due to a dispute over access to the property.
Judge Richard Licht did not change his May 13 decision ordering 4N Properties to allow Read Landscape Construction to use Nunes Lane to get to their land.
Read’s attorney Joelle Rocha said, “the judge was very clear.”
“It needs to be moved in 30 days. That was it,” she said. “We’re just looking to access our property and we’re three years into this litigation. It doesn’t make any sense.”
Read, who bought the land to move and expand his business, reflected on 4N principal Jared Nunes’ background as a state lawmaker and his refusal thus far to follow the judge’s order.
“This is a former state representative,” Read said. “Zero respect for the court. I think that’s an issue.”
During the hearing, Licht excoriated defense attorney David Campbell several times for his own disrespect for interrupting the judge and turning his back on the bench a number of times.
“You be quiet,” Licht told Campbell after one interruption. “Stand at the podium, and don’t cross your arms.”
As Campbell continued to offer his disagreement with Licht’s May decision, the judge expressed more displeasure when the attorney turned his back to the bench.
“If you walk away one more time when I’m talking to you,” Licht said, raising his voice, “if you walk away one more time, I’ve had it with you, Mr. Campbell.”
A Target 12 camera was not allowed in the courtroom on the request of Read’s attorney but at one point, Licht told Campbell he regretted that.
“I wish we had a video camera to show your disrespect for this courtroom,” Licht said.
Neither Nunes nor his attorney have responded to requests for comment on the judge’s order or Campbell’s courtroom behavior.
In the past, Nunes said 4N did not do anything wrong, emphasizing that access to Nunes Lane was never part of the deal when the land was sold.
About a year after the transaction closed, Read’s company sued 4N, alleging Nunes’ company altered the deed by removing Nunes Lane as a right of way.
The lawsuit will now move forward on other claims against 4N and the town of West Warwick, with Read seeking financial damages.
“I bought this to expand,” Read said. “I cannot fit even another wheelbarrow on my current property. It’s cost me a lot of money.”
Rocha said if the jersey barrier blockade and other debris is not removed from Nunes Lane in 30 days, the Reads will return to court to request a contempt of court charge.
“This is a small, successful business in Rhode Island trying to relocate and expand,” Rocha said, “and you’re held up by this silly objection over a right of way?”
Nunes, a Democrat, was a four-term state representative until he decided not to run for reelection last year.