Paul Reiber nominated for Supreme Court vacancy

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(Host) Governor Jim Douglas has named Rutland attorney Paul Reiber to fill a vacancy on the Vermont Supreme Court. Reiber is a trial lawyer who has specialized in civil litigation cases representing insurance companies.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel has the details.

(Kinzel) Douglas moved very quickly on this nomination once he received a second set of applicants from the state’s Judicial Nominating Board. A second group was needed because the governor rejected the first list of candidates that the Board sent to him.

Reiber has been practicing law in Rutland since 1976, acquiring a lot of courtroom experience litigating a variety of civil cases. Reiber told reporters at a Montpelier news conference that his judicial philosophy is one of moderation:

(Reiber) “I think the philosophy of any good jurist is middle of the road. I have no agenda, I don’t come to this with any agenda. I specifically would tell you that I think good jurists are those judges who don’t prejudge any matter, who look to decide cases based upon what it is – the issues that are properly presented to them; who decide those issues based upon sound legal reasoning.”

(Kinzel) During the selection process, the governor told reporters that he felt the Vermont Supreme Court had gone too far in two of its historic decisions: the Brigham ruling that led to Act 60 and the Baker decision which resulted in the passage of the civil unions law. Reiber say he’s read both decisions but he feels it isn’t appropriate to comment on them and he says the governor never raised these issues during his interview:

(Reiber) “And these questions were not asked to me. I don’t see that anybody in this position who’s qualified for this position should be second guessing what the Supreme Court has done. I don’t intend to do that.”

(Kinzel) The Reiber nomination will be reviewed by the Senate next January. Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Sears says determining Reiber’s judicial philosophy is a critical job for his panel:

(Sears) “Perhaps his views on Brigham or Baker aren’t as critical as his views on how the Court should act, and whether it should be a more activist court or more reserved court. The court has certainly been accused of judicial activism and so I think those questions are critically important in understanding who you are dealing with.”

(Kinzel) Because Reiber only learned of his appointment this week, he says he’s not sure how soon he can wrap up his private practice and join the Court.

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

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