Justice, Kindness, and Faith Renewed

Published: June 25, 2024

By Jim Lichtman
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With all the recent attacks on judges, this profile of a former municipal judge in Providence, Rhode Island is just too compelling and important to ignore. And it has overwhelmed social media with hundreds of millions of views.

CBS reporter David Begnaud begins the story.

“‘I’m just a small-town municipal court judge, just trying to do good.’ That’s what 80-year-old Judge Frank Caprio says. ‘That’s how I am, who tries to take into consideration the circumstances surrounding the people before me. And remember what my dad told me: when someone appears before you, put yourself in their shoes imagine it’s you before them. How do you want to be treated?’

“Caprio’s deep empathy for others stems from hardships he’s faced,” Begnaud says, “growing up in poverty in Providence without hot running water, just blocks from the courthouse now named after him. He often recalls shining shoes on the corner and the lessons his father taught him about understanding and compassion.”

And for 38 years, he has followed that advice. Videos of his courtroom judgments have become syndicated sensations.

“One video,” Begnaud says, “features a woman who had racked up tickets and fines of $400. She broke down as she described trying to pick up the pieces after her son was stabbed to death.

“‘I’m just really having a tough time, your honor,’ she told the judge through tears as Caprio listened attentively.

“‘I don’t think anyone in their lifetime would ever want to experience that,’ he told her.

“‘It’s the worst feeling in the world. I feel so empty and lost,’ she replied.

“He dismissed the tickets,” Begnaud said.

“I may be adding just a little bit more understanding toward the United States system of government and how it works,” Caprio said, “that we are a decent peace-loving people, and not how we’re being portrayed in other parts of the world.”

“Caprio recalled memorable cases, like that of Victor Colella, a 96-year-old man charged with a school zone violation while taking his handicapped son to a doctor’s appointment. Caprio dismissed the case, praising Colella for his dedication to his family.

“The two reunited for the first time since 2023

“‘The best friend I ever had. God bless you. I hope you live to be my age and over,’ said Colella, who is now 101. ‘There’s not a better man on Earth than you. You help everybody. God bless you.’

Caprio calls children to come up on the bench to help pass judgment on their parents and makes high schoolers promise to attend college in return for dropping tickets. He works out payment plans for people who are struggling. Occasionally, he loses patience, especially when he thinks the person is trying to give him “a snow job.” He even gets laughs when he turns down pleas for a break.

“The judge thinks he’s gone viral because people have lost faith in government and are accustomed to institutions coming down hard without regard for personal circumstances,” Begnaud says.

“Caprio taught high school history to support himself as he attended law school at Boston’s Suffolk University at night. After building a law practice, he became a part-time judge on the municipal court in 1985, hearing mostly non-criminal matters. A few years later, his brother, Joe, began filming the proceedings, calling the show ‘Caught in Providence.’

“It has aired locally since then, but Caprio’s fame took off after shorter clips started appearing on Facebook last year.”

Now, however, it is Caprio who’s on the receiving end of compassion. After he revealed that he is undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer, he received thousands of letters and gifts.

And I am heartened to hear that his story has gone viral. Each of us is a role model for at least one other person, and in Judge Caprio’s life, he has influenced thousands.

The biggest antidote to cynicism is kindness.


  1. Great Judge! It seems like he is able to separate the people from the problem while upholding the spirit of the law. Of course the letter of the law is a logical starting point, but a well
    thought out ‘spirit of the law’ approach may lead to better outcomes.

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