While the legal system is often cruel and unjust, every once in a while a story comes out of the courts that is bound to warm readers’ hearts. Whether it’s a friendly judge or an inspiring story of someone overcoming adversity, there have been dozens of uplifting cases in the past few years.
Many of those cases come from the show “Caught in Providence,” a nationally syndicated show where real people have their cases heard in front of Judge Frank Caprio in Providence, Rhode Island. Heartwarming clips from the show regularly go viral, making people around the world and across the internet smile.
One such clip from the show is titled “A Tough Year.” Uploaded in November 2020, the excerpt opens with a mother, Massey English, who enters the courtroom with her toddler, Kaya. Judge Caprio is immediately struck by how adorable and sweet Kaya is, and he jokingly asks whether she is English’s lawyer.
But the mood turns somber when Judge Caprio learns why English and her daughter decided to come into court for a parking ticket. English explains that she received a parking ticket while she was picking up her daughter’s birth certificate. She goes on to explain that she had to run an errand because her husband recently passed away after battling cancer. Judge Caprio then remarks that he remembers English. Earlier that year, she had been in his courtroom and had a similarly tragic story. Her son had broken his arm and had had to stay in the ICU for five days while doctors performed a graft. “It’s been a rough year. It’s been a lot for myself and both of my children the last year. There’s a lot that went on,” English explains.
Judge Caprio seems moved by English’s story. But before he offers his verdict, he enlists the help of Kaya, calling her up to the bench. He then asks Kaya to say, “Mommy, not guilty.” Judge Caprio’s gentleness and empathy shine through his handling of this case. “Well, Kaya says you’re not guilty. Now I can’t compete with that,” he adds after Kaya adorably repeats “not guilty.” Needless to say, the little girl and her mother must have been relieved that the judge concurred.
The clip has touched viewers from around the world and has since gone viral. Since it was uploaded in 2020, it has accumulated more than 2 million views, along with many positive comments that commend Judge Caprio for his humane approach to justice. “A judge who hasn’t forgotten his humanity. My favorite judge ever,” one viewer wrote.
“This judge doesn’t act by the book, he acts by his heart,” a commenter added. Another viewer was impressed by Judge Caprio’s thoughtfulness in remembering English’s previous case. “The fact that he remembers her son and that he broke his arm tells you a lot about this judge… he listens, he remembers, he cares,” a popular YouTube comment reads.
According to the show’s website, Judge Caprio is the Chief Municipal Judge in Providence, Rhode Island. The website also explains that “All of the cases and people are real.” Judge Caprio spoke to the show’s popularity in an interview with Providence College, attributing its success to the decency it shows its participants.
“We have boxes full of letters from all over the world. Understanding, fair, compassionate — in almost every letter, those words are present. We’ve captured the imagination of the world by doing nothing other than showing basic decency,” Judge Caprio explained. He also added, “We are different from any other court production in that we show actual proceedings in real-time. Everything is spontaneous, and the people who appear must abide by the judgment. This really captured the imagination of people in Rhode Island.”
Judge Caprio came from humble beginnings, being raised on a cold-water flat where he would huddle with his family in the colder months “with the oven door open so we could get heat.” However, he learned his values and work ethic from his family, as he said, “I saw my father get up every day at 4 o’clock in the morning to go to work as a fruit peddler. He never complained. When he came from Italy, his dream was that his kids would become not only integrated into society but leaders in it.”
One night, his father told him, “Someday, you’re going to be a lawyer. Look around, if I needed a lawyer, I couldn’t afford one. Remember that. You can never forget where you came from.” Caprio was 10 years old. He recalls, “From that day on, I never wanted to be anything but a lawyer — never.” Today, Judge Caprio has changed thousands of lives and continues to be a beacon of light and an excellent example for others to follow.