Lawmakers Approve Supreme Court Judges For Another Term

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(Host) All five members of the Vermont Supreme Court have been elected by lawmakers to serve another 6 year term on the bench.

And, as VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports, Vermont’s judicial retention process is quite different from the review systems used in many other states.

(Scott)"This Joint Assembly will now come to order…."

(Kinzel) Lt. Governor Phil Scott brought the gavel down to signal the beginning of a joint session of the House and Senate.   The occasion was the judicial retention of all five members of the Vermont Supreme Court and 9 Superior Court judges.

In some states, judges are appointed for life, in other states, judges are elected by voters and run campaigns and raise money for their election.

Vermont’s system is different.  Judges are initially appointed by the Governor to a six year term and then they’re subject to legislative review if they want to serve another term.

As part of the Retention process, individual lawmakers nominate each judge.  Ripton Rep. Willem Jewett urged his colleagues to support the re-nomination of Chief Justice Paul Rieber.

Jewett said Rieber played a key role to unify Vermont’s entire Court system and had brought his message directly to lawmakers:

(Jewett) "This is only the second time in the history of this state that such an address was made. To use the timeless words of U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall to remind us "that the very essence of liberty certainly consists in the right of every individual to claim the protection of the laws."

(Kinzel) After the nominations are made – paper ballots are distributed to all lawmakers:

(Scott) "Does everyone have a ballot at this point ? You may now mark your ballots if you haven’t already done so."

(Kinzel) And Lt. Governor Scott announced the results:

(Scott) "Please listen to the results of your vote. For chief justice Paul Rieber total votes cast 157, necessary fore election 79, the yeas 156 the nays one."

(Kinzel) Windsor senator Alice Nitka is the chair of the Judicial Retention Board. She thinks the Vermont system works well and that it’s relatively free of partisan politics:

(Nitka) "This process isn’t a judgment about the decisions that they’ve made and they therefore are not influenced by say they make a decision that we’ve seen happen in some other states I’m thinking of Massachusetts whereby a judge is ousted because of a decision which may be the right decision but it wasn’t a well liked one so that’s not a part of this."

(Kinzel) Originally ten Superior court judges were seeking another term in office but Judge Mark Keller withdrew his name after the Judicial Retention Board voted against his nomination.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.



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