Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Judicial Retention 2011

This upcoming legislative session will see 15 judges stand for retention- 10 superior judges and all five justices. The superior judges are:
Robert Bent
Cortland Corsones
Thomas Devine
Theresa DiMauro
Harold Eaton
Mark Keller
Michael Kupersmith
Linda Levitt
Gregory Rainville
John Wesley
This happens, of course, every six years. What is interesting about our statute is that a judge “inherits” the timing of his or her predecessor. So, every new judge doesn’t necessarily get an initial six year term; it’s the “seat” that has the six year term, not the individual. And when the constitution was amended to create this method of retaining judges, the entire Supreme Court was put on the six year cycle.
This results in an immense amount of work for the four representatives and the four senators who make up the Joint Committee on Judicial Retention. Their duties on this committee are in addition to the house members’ primary committee work and the senators’ two committee assignments. The retention committee works evenings, usually two nights a week until its work is done. And the judges must travel to Montpelier, probably three times, after a day on the bench. They are interviewed by the committee members; they usually attend a public hearing; and they return to answer follow up questions after the public input.
The House Speaker and the Committee on Committees (in the Senate) will appoint the committee members by the end of January. Although the committee is supposed to finish its work and bring its recommendation to a joint assembly by the tenth week of the session, that date will no doubt be rolled out by resolution of both chambers.
Some of you may already have been surveyed by legislative council if you’ve appeared before any of these judges. Stayed tuned to this blog for schedule updates as we get them.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Happy Holidays

It’s just about time for the legislature to return and for me to post regularly on this blog. But I wanted to update you on the recent election. When the new session convenes we will see 18 lawyer-legislators, 12 in the House and 6 in the Senate. Here’s the list. In the House: Betty Nuovo; Willem Jewett; Michele Kupersmith; Shap Smith; Duncan Kilmartin; Anne Donahue; Maxine Grad; Janet Ancel; Richard Marek; Sarah Buxton; Sandy Haas; and Tom Koch.
In the Senate we’ll see Bob Hartwell; Joe Benning; Sally Fox; Vince Illuzzi; Peg Flory; and John Campbell.
As you know by now taxes and restructuring the tax system will be high on the agenda in January. You have probably heard that the Blue Ribbon tax Structure Commission will be recommending the extension of the sales tax to services, while lowering the tax rate. Yes, as of right now, that will include legal services, at least some legal services. There is a long way to go to passing any legislation but it’s time for a heads up here; your business operations may have to undergo some fast changes. The VBA will be monitoring this issue and will keep you informed. Be prepared to be asked for help in contacting your representative or senator should I ask. Preserving access to justice for Vermonters has been a goal of the VBA for many years and now is not the time to make that access prohibitively expensive.
As always thanks for reading and following this blog. My best wishes for the holiday season.