Douglas looks at Supreme Court candidates

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(Host) Governor Jim Douglas says he hopes to fill a vacancy on the Vermont Supreme Court in the next few weeks.

Douglas says he’d like to make the appointment soon because the court hasn’t had five full-time justices hearing cases for almost a year.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) A year ago former Chief Justice Jeffery Amestoy stepped down from the bench. The governor’s first job was to appoint a new chief. He tapped a current member of the Court, Associate Justice Paul Rieber for the post.

Douglas had nominated Rieber to the Court the previous year. When Rieber was elevated to Chief Justice, there was still a vacancy to fill and it’s taken more than seven months for the state’s Judicial Nominating Board to review applications.

But now the Board has completed its work and it’s sent a group of names to the governor for his review. Douglas is looking for a candidate with specific qualifications.

(Douglas) “Someone who can be fair and equitable, apply the laws to the parties who come before the Court in a responsible way. I want someone who is scholarly, who is articulate, who can look at the cases and controversies coming before the Court and apply the law fairly and judiciously. So I want someone who will dispense justice as the Constitution requires.”

(Kinzel) Douglas says finding a candidate with judicial experience would be a plus.

(Douglas) “All else being equal I’d like to appoint a trial judge. Only one of the four sitting justices has had trial court experience. So that would certainly be beneficial if I can find the right candidate.”

(Kinzel) The governor says making this appointment in a timely manner is a top priority.

(Douglas) “I hope to fill the vacancy as quickly as I can. I’m moving forward with interviews this week and will check references and hope to have a decision fairly soon.”

Douglas doesn’t have to select a candidate from the list. If after the interview process he doesn’t feel comfortable with any of the candidates, he can request a new list from the Judicial Nominating Board.

This is a step he took when former Justice James Morse left the Court in 2003 to become a member of the Douglas Administration.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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