New chief justice sworn in

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(Host) Vermont’s newest chief justice took the oath of office on Friday and promised to work free from politics or ideology. Chief Justice Paul Reiber said the courts have a solemn duty to be independent and to administer justice without favor or personal bias.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Ceremony) “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of chief justice of the Supreme Court for the State of Vermont.”

(Dillon) The Supreme Court overflowed with lawyers, legislators, family and judges from around the state as Paul Reiber raised his right hand and became the fortieth chief justice in the state’s history.

Reiber has experienced a fast-track career on the court. Just over a year ago, he was practicing law in Rutland when Governor Jim Douglas named him as associate justice. The governor then picked him for court’s top job after Chief Justice Jeffrey Amestoy stepped down.

Before he administered the oath of office, Douglas spoke of the qualities that first drew him to Reiber.

(Douglas) “A deep commitment and love for his chosen profession, a great respect for the importance of the rule of law for our society, humility, thoughtfulness, wisdom and balance.”

(Dillon) Reiber said that in his brief tenure on the court he’s been welcomed warmly by his colleagues. He said he took a tour of the state’s courtrooms over the past year to witness firsthand the machinery of justice. He said he came away impressed by the hard work and dedication of the judges and the court staff.

(Reiber) “I visited in Chittenden and sat with Judge Leavitt on the miscellaneous docket in the criminal court, in Chittenden District Court, sat in on family court, visited in two of the drug courts – one in Rutland with Judge Corsones this summer, one in Chittenden with Judge Pineles. I cannot tell you what a wonderful job these people do.”

(Dillon) Reiber also paid tribute to those whom he called the heroes of the court system.

(Reiber) “People like family court magistrates and judges, and like our volunteer guardians ad litem, lawyers and lay people who work in juvenile and family courts without compensation but to protect the rights of children.”

(Dillon) The new chief justice said judges have a solemn duty to work apart from partisanship and ideology.

(Reiber) “This is not a matter of choice. It is a duty. It is our obligation. And the decision we make is not a matter of preference, personal or political. Our decision is based on what the law says. The law gives us the answer.”

(Dillon) Governor Douglas called Reiber’s appointment the most important one he will make as governor. By naming Reiber as chief justice, Douglas also gets to pick another judge to serve on the five member court.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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