Nominating board submits Supreme Court candidates to governor

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(Host) The state’s Judicial Nominating Board on Friday forwarded a list of names to Governor Jim Douglas to fill the vacancy of chief justice of the Vermont Supreme Court. Douglas says prior judicial experience will be a factor as he reviews the nominees.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) The board interviewed a group of applicants for the vacancy on Wednesday and Thursday. It then reviewed each application and made a determination of whether or not the person was “qualified” to be on the Supreme Court.

Of the four existing members of the Supreme Court, three had no judicial experience before being named to the bench; one had limited experience. As Douglas reviews the applications, he says judicial experience will be a factor that he’ll consider in selecting a new chief justice:

(Douglas) “It’s a factor that I think would be a plus for any candidate for the position but it’s not required and I want to look at all the qualifications that the candidates bring to the table and make the best choice considering all the preparation and experience. So I would say judicial experience is a positive factor in my consideration but not a dominant one.”

(Kinzel) The entire selection process is done in secret. The list of the people who applied and the final group of names that’s sent to the governor are never released to the public.

The head of Judicial Nominating Board, Pittsford Representative Peg Flory, would like open up the process. The House this year passed a bill that establishes specific criteria for the board to evaluate each candidate. The board would then send a list of “well qualified” applicants to the governor. The Senate didn’t act on the plan.

If these changes are made, Flory thinks it makes sense to release the list of names who are sent to governor:

(Flory) “If you’ve had a committee decide that a judge or an attorney is well qualified to be a judge, then I don’t think that would cause any undue problems with their private practice if they were not the one that would be selected.”

(Kinzel) Douglas says he hopes to appoint a new chief justice by Election Day.

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

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