Shumlin Looking For Nominee Who Is “Tough On Crime”

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(Host) At the end of the summer, Governor Peter Shumlin will appoint a new member to the Vermont Supreme Court.  The vacancy is the result of the recent resignation of Justice Denise Johnson.

Shumlin says he wants to name a person who is "smart, understands the law, and is tough on crime."

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) In the next few weeks, the Vermont Supreme Court will send a letter to roughly 3,000 Vermont lawyers informing them that there’s a vacancy on the Court. The letter will also outline the process to follow if the attorney wishes to apply for the vacancy.

Bob Paolini is the director of the Vermont Bar Association. He explains what happens next:

(Paolini) "Those applications go to the Judicial Nominating Board who reviews them, decides who’s qualified after a series of interviews checking references etc. and those people found qualified will have their names forwarded to the Governor."

(Kinzel) Paolini says it’s important to remember that the Board doesn’t actually make any specific recommendations to the Governor. Instead, it sends along a list of every candidate it finds to be qualified for the Court.

In the past 30 years, having judicial experience hasn’t been a key factor in many court appointments. Governor Peter Shumlin agrees with this approach:

(Shumlin) "I don’t have a bias there but I can tell you that I certainly don’t believe that a Supreme Court justice needs to have served as a judge. They need to be a great lawyer they need to have really good judgment they have to care about Vermont and know that their decisions are going to have extra ordinary impacts on our lives for a much longer period of time than most of we politicians."

(Kinzel) But Shumlin says he does want the nominee to be "tough on crime:"

(Shumlin) "As far as I’m concerned I think one’s view of criminal justice matters when you have a case that’s appealed to the Supreme Court and I’m someone who believes that one’s perspective on how we approach crime matters."

(Kinzel) State Archivist Gregory Sanford says naming people to the Supreme Court is one of the most important decisions a governor can make:

(Sanford) "For a governor it’s a wonderful opportunity to have a say in the direction of the Court because no matter how much we want to rail against the concept of activist courts – courts have to act all courts act and in acting they have to interpret."

(Kinzel) The Governor says he hopes to have a new justice in place when the Supreme Court begins its fall term in October.

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

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