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Honorable Robert F. Arrigan

(February 7, 1933 - December 26, 2013)

Robert F. Arrigan was a lifelong resident of Rhode Island, having attended Providence public schools, and graduating from La Salle Academy in 1951.  He attended Providence College from where he graduated in 1957.  As a Captain in the U.S. Army Reserves and having attended the U.S. Army Air Defense School, he proudly served his country.  From Georgetown University Law School, he completed his Juris Doctorate in 1961.  He was admitted to the Rhode Island Bar in 1961 and the United States District Court, District of Rhode Island in 1969.  From 1975 to 1978, he was a Providence Municipal Court Judge.

Judge Arrigan was appointed Commissioner of the Rhode Island Workers’ Compensation Commission by Governor J. Joseph Garrahy in 1978 and Vice-Chairman in 1984.  He spearheaded the effort to transform the Commission to a Court and was appointed its first Chief Judge by Governor Bruce Sundlun in 1990.  He served in this position until his retirement in 2003.

During the course of his service as Chief, Judge Arrigan worked tirelessly to transform a dysfunctional workers’ compensation system into an internationally recognized model of efficiency.  As Chief Judge, he set out to energize and reform the court process.  He worked closely with now Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, members of Labor, the General Assembly, and Governor Sundlun to overhaul the entire workers’ compensation system in Rhode Island to include changes in the law, court procedures, and the administration of justice.  He led the effort to implement these changes, helping to make the system what it is today.  Part of this included the creation and oversight of the Workers’ Compensation Advisory Council and the Workers’ Compensation Medical Advisory Board.  Under his direction, the Medical Advisory Board began preparing protocols for treatment of the most common injuries.  These protocols are frequently cited as national models for the treatment of work-related injuries.

Dr. John E. Donley Center, circa 1945
  Chief Judge Robert F. Arrigan

Chief Judge Arrigan’s dedication included education and knowledge-sharing, both locally and nationally.  He began the teaching of a course in workers’ compensation at Roger Williams University that continues to be a foundation for workers’ compensation professionals in Rhode Island. He became actively involved in the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions, serving in many leadership roles until eventually becoming its president from 1997 to 1998.

All of these roles included educational meetings where workers’ compensation professionals from around the world shared ideas on how to better serve injured workers and also protect the best interests of their employers.  Chief Judge Arrigan was also a trustee of the International Workers’ Compensation College.

Upon retirement, he served on the Board of the International Workers’ Compensation Foundation and continued to advance the study of efficient administration of workers’ compensation benefits, eventually receiving its lifetime achievement award.

Chief Judge Arrigan left a magnificent legacy. The citizens of the State of Rhode Island can remember him as a leader who saved the workers’ compensation system from collapse. His colleagues respected him as an indefatigable leader who endeavored to put the good of the system ahead of personal gain. Litigants who appeared before him will remember him for the boundless respect and care he brought to the bench. We therefore all owe Chief Judge Arrigan a substantial depth of gratitude.



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