'Nicest judge in the world' reveals the $300 case that pushed him to rule with compassion

Judge Frank Caprio shares how his father's disappointment in his first judgment "crumbled" him.

StephanieRPereira/Wikimedia Commons

Judge Caprio has become known for his compassion in the courtroom.

Frank Caprio has spent 38 years as a judge, making a name for himself as the chief judge of the municipal court of Providence, Rhode Island and gaining fame as the "nicest judge in the world" for his rulings on the reality show "Caught in Providence."

Caprio's empathy and compassion has shone through in his judgments, as he talked to defendants like real people, getting to know their personal stories and issuing judgments that helped the person get on their feet rather than punishing them for being poor or sick or taking care of their family.

In a video on Instagram, Caprio shared that his compassionate approach stemmed from a case brought before him on his very first day on the bench. When asked if there was a certain case from his years as a judge that he still thinks about today, Caprio shared that there was one case that made him feel "crumbled," and which he still gets upset just thinking about.

On his first day as the judge in the courtroom, a woman was brought before him owing $300 in parking tickets. She said she couldn't pay them because she didn't have the money. He suggested a payment plan, but the woman said she wouldn't be able to pay even with a payment plan. He felt she was being rude and arrogant and told her she had to pay the $300 or have her car booted.

Caprio had invited his father—"maybe the most decent man I ever met in my life," Caprio said—to watch him on his first day on the bench. After his ruling that the mother needed to pay her $300 in parking tickets, Caprio asked his dad how he did.

"Frank, that woman," his father responded. "You fined her…she was scared. You should have talked to her. You should have understood her problems. You can't treat people like that, Frank."

It was a lesson he never forgot. Watch:

Even after becoming a judge, Caprio was still getting valuable lessons from his father. Thanks to the passing on of his compassion, countless people in Providence have been the recipient of Caprio's empathetic approach to justice.

Even when the cameras were rolling for "Caught in Providence," Caprio made it clear that he was a judge with a serious job. "I'm not here on the court to be an entertainer," he said. "My primary role is to do justice."

But what has made him a beloved judge is his interpretation of what it really means to "do justice." In really listening to the defendants brought before him, he always learned the why behind whatever their infractions were, and in many cases, he saw that justice was better served by understanding and grace than by punishment.

Judge Caprio announced his retirement in January of 2023, and In December, at 87 years old, he shared that he has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He asked for people's prayers and has been keeping people updated on his Instagram account. You can follow Judge Caprio here.