(Host) Governor Jim Douglas says it’s unlikely he’ll appoint a new chief Justice to the Vermont Supreme Court before Election Day. That means Douglas could make the appointment even if he loses the governor’s race. That prospect has Democratic gubernatorial candidate seething.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.
(Kinzel) The vacancy occurred when former chief Justice Jeffery Amestoy unexpectedly stepped down from the court several months ago. Douglas was hoping to fill the vacancy by the middle of this month but he says he’s been too busy on the campaign trail to make a final decision:
(Douglas) “It is unlikely – not for lack of effort and attention, but it’s a very busy time not only with the responsibilities of my office but the political campaign takes an increasing amount of time as we approach Election Day. So I think to be honest at this point, it’s likely that I’ll wait until after the election and hope that it will be very soon after Election Day.”
(Kinzel) When Douglas filled a court vacancy last year, he initially rejected a list of candidates sent to him by the state’s Judicial Nominating Board. This time, Douglas says he’s very satisfied with the names that he’s received:
(Douglas) “I’ve interviewed all of the nominees submitted by the Judicial Nominating Board and frankly I think there are a number of very good possibilities there. This is perhaps the most important choice a governor ever makes: someone who will not only lead another branch of government but whose appointment will last well beyond the tenure of probably several governors. So I want to be sure to make a good choice.”
(Kinzel) In the event that he loses the upcoming gubernatorial election, Douglas will still have an opportunity to appoint a new chief justice in the weeks following the election. That’s something that has never happened in Vermont political history.
Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Peter Clavelle says he strongly believes that the candidate who wins this election should be the person who makes this critical appointment:
(Clavelle) “I can see if he’s prepared to make an appointment to do so before the election but if the governor loses this election he should certainly not as a lame duck appoint the chief justice to the Vermont Supreme Court. The governor will be elected by the people of the state of Vermont on November 2, ought to make that decision and that choice. I think it would be totally inappropriate for him to make this appointment.”
(Kinzel) The appointment of a new chief justice must be confirmed by the Vermont Senate during the 2005 session.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.