Wednesday, March 27, 2013
So it’s been two weeks since I’ve updated this blog; my apologies. It’s not as though I wasn’t keeping track of what’s been happening though. After my last post I was out of town for the VBA Mid Year Meeting while the house and senate struggled to meet the crossover deadlines. Then, as happens every year, the week after crossover, both chambers’ calendars are full and more time is spent on the floor of each chamber than is spent in committee.
The bills I have been following most closely, S. 31 (“Billings”) and H.431, foreclosure mediation, have both crossed over and each judiciary committee has begun work on its bill. Yesterday, Susan Murray and Penny Benelli testified on S. 31. Tomorrow senate judiciary will start work on the mediation update; I am scheduled to testify along with a few others. I expect both bills to reach the governor’s desk before adjournment.
Today the joint assembly agreed to retain all the superior judges and the one magistrate that sought retention. Later today and for the remainder of the week actually, the house will be debating the tax bill and the appropriations bill. That’s. of course, after they finish work on the shore lands protection bill! Things should get back to normal next week after al lthis floor action! Let’s hope anyway.
Thanks for reading.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Last night the Judicial Retention Committee voted to recommend retention of all the superior judges. There was no vote on Magistrate Zander who the committee wants to visit with again on Thursday, March 21st as a follow up to the public hearing. There were no negative votes and only one member abstained on one judge with one member being absent. The votes, then were mostly 7-0-1 with one being 6-0-1 and one abstention. The joint assembly vote will be held on Thursday, March 28th at 10:30.
The House Judiciary Committee heard testimony on H. 431, the update to the foreclosure mediation process. The bill extends mediation to all foreclosures after the expiration of HAMP, set for December 31 of this year. This is set up as an “opt in” process, supported by increased outreach by home ownership centers. Of course this requires funding for those centers and the House Appropriations Committee is looking at options to provide that funding. One option is to use most of a $371,000 settlement award to the state from a loan processing company case pursued by the attorney general. One of the items on the table is some increased foreclosure defense funds going to Vermont Legal Aid; the other option does not include that piece. Although crossover is Friday, money committees are not required to have their work completed by then; they have until the end of the month.
There was a lot of work on three other bills that all affect property and should be of interest to the real estate bar. Those bills are S.119, the perpetual easement bill; H. 216, the energy efficiency bill, and H.223, the shoreland protection bill. All three are in one stage or another of being redrafted ; I’ll try to get up to date information later today. I’ll also try to post a report today before I leave for the VBA Mid Year Meeting at the Sheraton tomorrow and Friday. Thanks for checking in a reading this update.
Friday, March 1, 2013
I know, it’s been a week since I last posted here; sorry but there was a lot going on in the last week before the Town Meeting break. Of interest to you, of course, is the public hearing on the retention of the seven judges and one magistrate. Let me just say that one litigant from Orleans County had some negative comments about Judge Gerety and Magistrate Zander. She said that the judge needed more training on dealing with people with “hidden disabilities”. She maintained that he did not let her speak and only did so reluctantly after she objected, giving her only two minutes.
Attorney Doug DiSabito, a former judiciary employee in Grand Isle County, testified in favor of Judge Tomasi. He praised him for his vast knowledge of the law and a real insight into people. He said the judge’s findings a re well written and he is respectful of litigants and the lawyers.
Two witnesses spoke in favor of Magistrate Zander. They were Caledonia and Essex Superior Court Clerk Kathleen Pearl and former ADAP and current Washington County Deputy Sheriff Dick Powell. Dick Powell spoke to the difficulty in dealing with self represented litigants during an emotional hearing at a difficult time in their lives. Both witnesses spoke to her respect for the people appearing before her and her willingness to listen to both sides of the issue. Kathleen Pearl spoke to the other duties Magistrate Zander performs. She cited examples of working on internal issues in the courthouse, serving on committees, etc.
Finally Teri Corsones and Steve Dardeck testified in favor of the retention of Judge Cohen. Steve told the committee that Judge Cohen stands out in patience, courtesy, and willingness to listen and shows no gender bias to either litigants or lawyers. Teri echoed the comments about patience and spoke to his support of the “low bono” project in Rutland County. She referred to Judge Cohen as an “exemplary model of professionalism and cooperation”.
So, now the legislature takes a week off; when they return on Tuesday, March 12th, the retention committee will be meeting with Judge Cohen and Magistrate Zander. After that the committee will take its votes on whether to recommend retention of the each of the eight. The joint assembly vote is scheduled for Thursday, March 28th at 10:30.
Thanks for reading. Check back after March 12 for more updates.