Vermont Chief Justice Jeffrey Amestoy steps down

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(Host) In a surprise development, the Chief Justice of the Vermont Supreme Court, Jeffery Amestoy, announced on Wednesday that he’s resigning his post in August. Amestoy, who has served in state government for 30 years, says it’s time to move on to other challenges in his life.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Amestoy was appointed as the Chief Justice of the court seven years ago by former Governor Howard Dean. Prior to his court appointment, Amestoy served as Vermont’s attorney general for 12 years.

Amestoy says this summer marks his thirtieth year serving in state government. He worked as an assistant attorney general for a decade before his election as attorney general.

Amestoy says reaching this milestone makes new pension benefits available to him and he thought it was the right time to move on to something new:

(Amestoy) “So there are certain benefits at the end of a 30 year period. As I took a look at those I finally decided it would provide some flexibility and opportunity to do some other things. I certainly will miss the court; I’ll miss the folks here and I think I’ll miss aspects of public life. But on the other hand, three decades is a long time to be working in the same spot dealing with a lot of the same issues. I think I’m ready for a change.”

(Kinzel) Although his long term plans are uncertain at this time, Amestoy says he’ll spend the fall semester teaching at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Amestoy wrote the Court’s opinion for the Baker case – the decision that recognized the rights of same sex couples in Vermont and the Legislature responded to the decision by passing the civil union law:

(Amestoy) “History will certainly make a judgment as to whether how significant it was, but I certainly think it’s the case that probably I’ll be most identified with- certainly the court and the state of Vermont will be identified with that decision. And I think my guess is that history will judge us favorably, at least in helping to contribute to a more civil and more complete discussion of the issue of gay rights in the United States. And I think from that standpoint I hope it was a contribution. I believe it was.”

(Kinzel) Governor Jim Douglas says he was totally surprised by Amestoy’s letter of resignation. Douglas praised Amestoy’s tenure on the court and says he has great respect for the retiring Chief Justice.
The Judicial Nominating Board will soon begin the process to accept applications for the position of Chief Justice – Douglas has certain qualities that he’s looking for in the new candidate:

(Douglas) “I want someone who is intelligent, energetic experienced; someone who will apply the law fairly, who will dispense justice equitably among all the cases and applicants that come before the court. The chief justice has some additional responsibilities so I would look for someone with leadership capabilities and administrative skills in addition to the appropriate judicial temperament.”

(Kinzel) Douglas says he hopes to be able to make the appointment by the late fall.

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

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