Irene Forces Delay In High Court Appointment

10/12/11 5:50PM By Bob Kinzel
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(Host) Dealing with the aftermath of Irene has delayed Governor Peter Shumlin's timetable for filling a vacancy on the Vermont Supreme Court.

But as VPR's Bob Kinzel reports, it's likely that the Governor will name a new justice by the end of the month.

(Kinzel) Last Spring, Justice Denise Johnson announced her retirement after serving 21 years on the Vermont Supreme Court.

At that time, Governor Peter Shumlin said he hoped to fill the vacancy by the time the Court held its October term but that's not going to happen.

In a highly confidential process, the state's Judicial Nominating Board has sent the names of all qualified candidates to the Governor for his consideration. But the interview schedule for these candidates was delayed because of Irene.

Shumlin says he expects to fill the vacancy soon and he says the gender of the applicants and their lack of experience as a trial judge will not be factors in his decision.

(Shumlin) "What it boils down to as far as I'm concerned is an individual who has extraordinary judgment, is really bright, is fair, decent and can help chart the judiciary on a path to continued success with dwindling resources and we've got to make sure that the judicial branch of government is strong an vibrant and has people with great judgment and great intellect. That's what I'll be looking for."

(Kinzel) Cheryl Hannah is a professor at Vermont Law School. She thinks a number of the candidates sent to the Governor are women because many women are now reaching the pinnacle of their legal careers in Vermont.

(Hannah) "That's really a reflection that 20 to 25 years ago an increasing number of women were going to law school and since that time many of them have had the opportunities to really develop and hone their skills that would make them qualified for that position. So 25 to 30 years ago, when you talked about the need to appoint a woman the pool of qualified candidates who were women would have been much smaller than it is today."

(Kinzel) And Hannah thinks the big cases facing the Vermont Supreme Court in the coming decades will involve privacy issues and the Internet.

(Hannah) "Those cases are making their way through federal courts now and it's inevitable that they're going to end up in state courts as well. So I think if you're sort of looking out like the next 20 years what are some of the big things that the Vermont Supreme Court is going to have to tackle, one of them is going to be what is the role of all these new technologies in our lives both in the criminal and in the civil system."

(Kinzel) The Supreme Court is scheduled to begin its October term next Tuesday and Justice Johnson has agreed to stay on the Court to hear these cases.

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


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