Maritime law is a specialty pursued by very few attorneys. However, in the course of a legal career in Rhode Island, an attorney may be faced with a matter falling within the admiralty jurisdiction of the federal court at some time in the course of his or her practice.
That is why we are pleased that the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island has recently approved a new set of Local Rules to provide some uniformity in the handling of maritime issues that can arise in Rhode Island.
This recent change, which became effective January 15th, 2013, was due to the year-long efforts of the Local Admiralty Rules Subcommittee, a subcommittee of the USDC-RI Local Rules Committee.
The subcommittee was chaired by one of our partners, Jim Murphy, who has a long history of practicing in maritime law. His expertise and that of the subcommittee members – Samuel P. Blatchley, Michael J. Daly, Merlyn O’Keefe and Roger Williams School of Law Professor Jonathan Gutoff – was instrumental in evaluating, drafting and recommending these rules.
In a state where maritime business still holds a significant place in the local economy, it is not uncommon for local lawyers to encounter admiralty issues in the course of their practice. These new rules provide a basic guideline for local attorneys and the courts to follow when faced with these unique legal issues.
One of the highlights of the rules is Section C, “Actions In Rem: Special Provisions,” which details the appropriate procedure for the arrest of a vessel. When the arrest of a vessel is sought, the proceedings are fast paced, and the procedural requirements of the process must be followed precisely.
“When a ship about to leave for foreign shores must be arrested as security for outstanding maritime liens, time is of the essence,” explains Jim. “It is very important that the lawyers, the clients, the U.S. Marshal, the court clerks and the judges all have a very clear consensus on the steps that must be followed. The local admiralty rules provide those extra guidelines.”
Rhode Island is only the second district in the First Circuit, after Puerto Rico, to adopt local admiralty rules. We are pleased to have played a part in orchestrating this change in our local rules and look forward to continuing to raise awareness about the new guidelines within the local legal community.