- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 19, 2015

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - The brother of a judge who appears on the public access TV show “Caught in Providence” can try to sell the program to broadcasters, the state ethics commission said Tuesday.

Frank Caprio is chief municipal court judge in Providence and stars in the show created and produced by his brother, Joseph. The show has run on statewide public access TV for two decades, and ran for years on the local ABC affiliate.

Caprio asked the commission for an advisory opinion on whether the state ethics code prohibits his brother from making money on the show. Caprio says he has never received compensation for the show, and that won’t change.

The commission on Tuesday said he would be allowed to do it as long as the judge formally sets a policy that any member of the public can film in his courtroom.

The show, which runs daily, features Caprio often bantering with a string of people trying to talk their way out of parking tickets and citations for other minor infractions. Even former Gov. Bruce Sundlun once appeared before him.

It has made Caprio a well-known figure in the state. When his son ran for governor in 2010, potential voters frequently told him how much they loved to watch his dad on TV.

“I’m embarrassed by the feedback I get, to be quite honest with you,” Caprio said before Tuesday’s meeting. “If I’m on an airplane, 20 people will say, ‘Oh judge!’ They all remember a case.”

The judge said his brother doesn’t currently get paid for the show, although he did receive compensation when the show ran on WLNE-TV, an arrangement that ended around 2008.

Caprio said some broadcast companies - he wasn’t sure which ones - have expressed an interest in picking up the show. When his brother mentioned that to Caprio, “I told him to stop all negotiations until I had an opinion from the ethics commission,” the judge said.

Caprio told the commission that his brother uses his own equipment, that he allows anyone who asks to film in his courtroom and he has never denied anyone access. Several members of the commission expressed concern that members of the public still must seek the judge’s permission, so they said he must post a policy that any member of the public may videotape.

Ross Cheit, the commission chair and sole member to vote against the opinion, said that since Caprio gets to decide who films in his court, he was using his office to benefit his brother.

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