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H.846

Introduced by   Representatives DePoy of Rutland City, Allaire of Rutland City, Howard of Rutland City and Louras of Rutland City

Referred to Committee on

Date:

Subject:  Judiciary; assistant judges; small claims; civil ordinance and traffic violations in other counties 

Statement of purpose:  This bill proposes to provide assistant judges with permanent statewide jurisdiction over small claims cases and civil ordinance or traffic violations.  The bill also permits assistant judges to hear civil ordinance or traffic violation cases in a county other than the county in which the assistant judge presides.

AN ACT RELATING TO JURISDICTION OF ASSISTANT JUDGES

It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:

Sec. 1.  4 V.S.A. § 1108 is amended to read:

§ 1108.  CIVIL ORDINANCE AND TRAFFIC VIOLATIONS;

              JURISDICTION OF ASSISTANT JUDGES IN ESSEX COUNTY

(a)  Subject to the limits of this section and notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, an assistant judge of Essex County sitting alone shall have the same jurisdiction, powers, and duties to hear and decide civil ordinance and traffic violations as a hearing officer has under the provisions of this chapter.

(b)  Jurisdiction and venue of civil ordinance and traffic violations heard by an assistant judge shall be in the superior court in the county in which the violation is alleged to have occurred.

(c)  An assistant judge who elects to hear and decide civil ordinance and traffic violations shall have successfully completed at least 40 hours of training which shall be provided by the bureau.  Training shall be paid for by the county, which expenditure is hereby authorized.  Law clerk assistance shall be available to the assistant judges.

(d)  An assistant judge who elects to hear and decide civil ordinance and traffic violations or who elects to cease hearing these matters, shall cause the court clerk to notify the bureau and each municipality in the assistant judge’s county of the judge’s decision.  Upon receipt of notification that an assistant judge elects to hear these matters, exclusive jurisdiction vests with the superior court and every complaint alleging a civil ordinance and traffic violation in that judge’s county which is denied, or which requires a hearing, shall be set for hearing before the superior court in the assistant judge’s county.

(e)  If both assistant judges elect to hear civil ordinance and traffic violations, the senior assistant judge shall make the assignment of cases to be heard by each assistant judge.

(f)  If both assistant judges do not elect to hear civil ordinance and traffic violations or elect to cease to hear these matters, civil ordinance and traffic violations in the county shall be heard in accordance with the provisions of this chapter.

(g)  An assistant judge may decline to hear a particular civil ordinance or traffic violation, in which case the violation shall be heard by a hearing officer of the bureau.

(h)  An appeal from a decision of an assistant judge shall be in accordance with the provisions of this chapter.

(i)  Civil ordinance and traffic violations that are heard by an assistant judge in Essex County shall be heard in Essex County and shall not be heard at or transferred to any other location.

(j)  The administrative judge may assign an assistant judge to hear a civil ordinance or traffic violation case in a county other than the county in which the assistant judge presides if the assistant judge has elected to hear and decide civil ordinance and traffic violations under this section.

Sec. 2.  12 V.S.A. § 5540a is amended to read:

§ 5540a.  JURISDICTION OVER SMALL CLAIMS; ASSISTANT

                JUDGES; ADDISON, BENNINGTON, CHITTENDEN,

                FRANKLIN, GRAND ISLE, LAMOILLE, ORANGE, ORLEANS,

                WASHINGTON, WINDHAM, AND WINDSOR COUNTIES

(a)  Subject to the limitations in this section and notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, assistant judges of Addison, Bennington, Chittenden, Franklin, Grand Isle, Lamoille, Orange, Orleans, Washington, Windham, and Windsor counties sitting alone, shall hear and decide small claims actions filed under this chapter with the appropriate superior court if the assistant judges first elect to successfully complete the training required in subsection (b) of this section.

(b)  With the exception of assistant judges authorized to preside in small claims matters prior to the effective date of this act who have successfully completed the testing requirements established herein, an assistant judge hearing cases under this section shall have completed at least 100 hours of relevant training and testing, and observed 20 hours of small claims hearings in accordance with the protocol for said training and observation which shall be established by a majority of the assistant judges of the state, which shall include attendance at colleges or classes available in various locations in and outside the state to lay judges.  Training shall be paid for on a per capita basis of those judges electing to take the training by the county, which expenditure is hereby authorized.  Law clerk assistance available to superior court judges shall be available to the assistant judges.

(c)  A decision of an assistant judge shall be entered as a small claims judgment and may be appealed pursuant to section 5538 of this title.  The appeal shall be decided by the presiding judge.

(d)  An assistant judge upon successful completion of the training under subsection (b) of this section, shall cause the superior court clerk to notify the court administrator of the assistant judge’s successful completion of training.  Upon receipt of such notification, small claims cases which require a hearing shall first be set for hearing before an assistant judge in the superior court in the county and shall be heard by the assistant judge.  If the assistant judge is unavailable due to illness, vacation, administrative leave, disability or disqualification, the administrative judge pursuant to section 22 of Title 4 may assign a judge, or appoint and assign a member of the Vermont bar to serve temporarily as an acting judge, to hear small claims cases in Addison, Bennington, Chittenden, Franklin, Grand Isle, Lamoille, Orange, Orleans, Washington, Windham, and Windsor counties the case.  No action filed or pending shall be heard at or transferred to any other location unless agreed to by the parties.  If both assistant judges of the county elect to successfully complete training to hear these matters, the senior assistant judge shall make the assignment of cases to be heard by each assistant judge.  The assistant judges, once qualified to preside in these matters, shall work with the court administrator’s office and the administrative judge such that the scheduling of small claims cases before the assistant judges are at such times as to permit adequate current court personnel to be available when these cases are heard.

(e)  This section shall be repealed effective on July 1, 2008.

Sec. 3.  REPEAL

12 V.S.A. § 5540 is repealed.



Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont


www.leg.state.vt.us