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H.260

Introduced by   Representative Flory of Pittsford

Referred to Committee on

Date:

Subject:  Judiciary; judicial nominations and appointments

Statement of purpose:  This bill proposes to require that candidates for judicial vacancies be well-qualified for the position, instead of simply qualified, and to establish in detail the factors that the board shall consider in determining whether a candidate is well‑qualified.

AN ACT RELATING TO QUALIFICATIONS FOR APPOINTMENT AS A JUDGE OR JUSTICE

Sec. 1.  4 V.S.A. § 601 is amended to read:

§ 601.  JUDICIAL NOMINATING BOARD CREATED; COMPOSITION

(a)  A judicial nominating board is created for the nomination of supreme court justices, and superior and judges, district judges, environmental judges, magistrates, and the chairperson and the members of the public service board.

(b)  The board shall consist of eleven 11 members who shall be selected as follows:

* * *

(d)  The judicial nominating board shall adopt rules under chapter 25 of Title 3 which shall establish criteria and standards for the nomination of qualified candidates for judicial appointment including, but not limited to such factors as integrity, legal knowledge and ability, judicial temperament, impartiality, health, experience, diligence, administrative and communicative skills, social consciousness and public service.

(e)  A quorum of the committee board shall consist of eight members. 

(f)(e)  The board is authorized to use the staff and services of appropriate state agencies and departments as necessary to conduct investigations of applicants.

Sec. 2.  4 V.S.A. § 602 is amended to read:

§ 602.  -DUTIES

(a)  Prior to submission of names of candidates for justices of the supreme court, superior judges and district judges to the governor or general assembly as set forth in subsection (b) of this section, the board shall submit to the court administrator of the supreme court a list of all candidates, and he the court administrator shall disclose to the board information solely about professional disciplinary action taken or pending concerning any candidate.  From the list of candidates presented, the judicial nominating board shall select by majority vote, provided that a quorum is present, qualified well-qualified candidates as set forth in subsection (b) of this section.

(b)  Whenever a vacancy occurs in the office of a supreme court justice, a superior or district judge, or when an incumbent does not declare that he or she will be a candidate to succeed himself or herself, the judicial nominating board shall submit to the governor the names of as many persons as it deems qualified well‑qualified to be appointed to the office.  There shall be included in the qualifications for appointment that the person shall be an attorney at law who has been engaged in the practice of law or a judge in the state of Vermont for a period of at least five out of the ten years preceding his appointment, and with respect to a candidate for superior or district judge particular consideration shall be given to the nature and extent of his trial practice.

* * *

(d)  A well-qualified candidate shall possess the following attributes:

(1)  Integrity.  A candidate shall possess demonstrated integrity. 

(2)  Legal knowledge and ability.  A candidate shall possess a high degree of knowledge of established legal principles and procedures, and have demonstrated a high degree of ability to interpret and apply the law to specific factual situations.

(3)  Judicial temperament.  A candidate shall possess a judicial temperament, which includes common sense, compassion, decisiveness, firmness, humility, open-mindedness, tact, and patience. 

(4)  Impartiality.  A candidate shall exhibit an ability to make judicial determinations in a manner free of bias.

(5)  Professional experience.  Except as otherwise provided by this subdivision, a candidate shall be an experienced lawyer who has practiced law for at least ten years and shall have practiced law in Vermont for at least five out of the ten years preceding his or her application to the board.  However:

(A)  A candidate for a magistrate need only have practiced law for five years but shall have practiced law in Vermont for at least five out of the ten years immediately preceding his or her application to the board.

(B)  A candidate for the position of chairperson or member of the public service board shall not be required to be an attorney.

(6)  Stamina.  A candidate shall possess the physical and mental capacity required by the position.

(7)  Communication capability.  A candidate shall possess demonstrated oral and written capacities, with reasonable accommodations, required by the position.

(8)  Financial integrity.  A candidate shall possess demonstrated financial probity. 

(9)  Work ethic.  A candidate shall demonstrate diligence.

(10)  Vermont residency.  A candidate for supreme court justice, superior judge, district judge, environmental judge, or magistrate shall be a Vermont resident for at least one year prior to application to the board.  A candidate for chairperson or member of the public service board shall not be required to be a Vermont resident at the time of appointment but shall become a resident within six months of appointment.

(11)  Administrative capabilities.  A candidate shall demonstrate management and organizational skills or experience required by the position.

(f)  Factors that should be given due consideration by the board, but are not required of a candidate, include:

(1)  Public, community, or military service.

(2)  Judicial experience in Vermont.

(3)  For superior and district judges, the nature and extent of the candidate’s trial practice.

(4)  For environmental judge, experience and expertise in environmental and zoning law.

(5)  For the public service board chairperson and public service board members, experience and expertise in utilities regulation.

Sec. 3.  4 V.S.A. § 603 is amended to read:

§ 603.  JUDGES; APPOINTMENT

Whenever the governor appoints a supreme court justice or, a superior or judge, a district judge, he an environmental judge, a magistrate, or the chairperson of the public service board or a member of the public service board, the governor shall do so from the list of names of qualified well‑qualified persons submitted to him the governor by the judicial nominating board.  The names of the candidates submitted and not selected shall remain confidential.  If the governor does not select a candidate from the list of names of well-qualified candidates submitted by the board, the board shall repeat the nomination process in accordance with this chapter.  Application during the second or subsequent round of candidate selection for a vacancy shall be limited to persons who did not previously apply for that particular vacancy.  The names of well-qualified candidates previously submitted to the governor, but not chosen by the governor, shall be resubmitted to the governor along with the names of the newly selected well-qualified candidates. 



Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont


www.leg.state.vt.us