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BILL AS INTRODUCED 2007-2008

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H.470

Introduced by Representatives Flory of Pittsford and Marek of Newfane

Referred to Committee on

Date:

Subject:  Judiciary; judicial nominations and appointments; board procedures

Statement of purpose:  This bill proposes to clarify that eligibility requirements for members of the judicial nominations board apply only at the time of appointment or election; permit legislative vacancies to be filled by appointment instead of election; establish more detailed requirements for judicial candidates regarding the practice of law and residency; and clarify the law regarding confidentiality of board proceedings.

AN ACT RELATING TO THE PROCEDURES OF THE JUDICIAL NOMINATIONS BOARD AND QUALIFICATIONS OF JUDICIAL APPLICANTS

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, the 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:

(1)  The governor shall appoint two members who are not attorneys at law admitted to practice before the supreme court of Vermont.

(2)  The senate shall elect three of its members, not all of whom shall be members of the same party, and only one of whom may be an attorney at law admitted to practice before the supreme court of Vermont.

(3)  The house shall elect three of its members, not all of whom shall be members of the same party, and only one of whom may be an attorney at law admitted to practice before the supreme court of Vermont.

(4)  Attorneys at law admitted to practice before the supreme court of Vermont, and residing in the state, shall elect three of their number as members of the board.  The supreme court shall regulate the manner of their nomination and election. 

(5)(c)  Eligibility requirements for board members set forth in subsection (b) of this section shall apply only at the time of appointment or election.  The members of the board appointed by the governor shall serve for terms of two years and may serve for no more than three terms.  The members of the board elected by the house and senate shall serve for terms of two years and may serve for no more than three consecutive terms.  The members of the board elected by the attorneys at law shall serve for terms of two years and may serve for no more than three consecutive terms.  All appointments or elections shall be between January 1 and February 1 of each odd-numbered year, except to fill a vacancy.  Members shall serve until their successors are elected or appointed February 1 of each odd-numbered year.  If a legislative vacancy occurs while the general assembly is not in session, the speaker of the house may appoint a representative to fill a house vacancy, and the committee on committees may appoint a senator to fill a senate vacancy.  The requirements in subsection (b) of this section regarding party affiliation and the number of attorneys shall apply to the appointment of a member to fill the legislative vacancy.

(6)(d)  The members shall elect their own chair who will serve for a term of two years.

(c)(e)  The members of the judicial nominating board shall be entitled to compensation of $30.00 a day for the time spent in the performance of their duties, and reimbursement for their actual and necessary expenses incurred in the performance of their duties.

(d)(f)  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)(g)  A quorum of the committee shall consist of eight members.

(f)(h)  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, the environmental judges, and magistrates 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 or she shall disclose to the board information solely about professional disciplinary action taken or pending concerning any candidate.  If candidates for the public service board are admitted to practice before the supreme court of Vermont, the nominating board shall submit to the court administrator a list of those candidates, and he or she shall disclose to the board information solely about professional disciplinary action taken or pending concerning such candidates.  From the list of candidates presented, the judicial nominating board shall select by majority vote of the full board, provided that a quorum is present, qualified candidates as set forth in subsection (b) of this section.

(b)(1)  Whenever a vacancy occurs in the office of a supreme court justice, a superior or judge, a district judge, an environmental judge, a magistrate, and the chairperson of the public service board 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 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. 

(2)  Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, 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 candidate for magistrate need only have practiced law for four years.  A candidate for the position of chairperson or member of the public service board shall not be required to be an attorney. 

(3)  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.  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. 

(c)  In accordance with 30 V.S.A. § 3, whenever a vacancy occurs for a member position on the public service board, the governor shall submit at least five names of potential nominees to the judicial nominating board for review.  The judicial nominating board shall submit to the governor the names of as many of those candidates as it deems qualified.  The judicial nominating board shall submit to the governor a summary of the qualifications and experience of each candidate whose name was submitted to the board by the governor, together with any further information relevant to the matter.

(c)  All (d)  Except as provided in subsection (e) of this section, proceedings of the board, including the names of candidates considered by the board and information about any candidate submitted by the court administrator or by any other source, shall be confidential. 

(e)  The following shall be public:

(1)  Operating procedures of the board.

(2)  Standard application forms and any other forms used by the board, provided they do not contain personal information about a candidate or confidential proceedings.

(3)  All proceedings of the board prior to the board’s receipt of the first candidate’s completed application form.

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 persons submitted to him the governor by the judicial nominating board.  The names of the candidates submitted and not selected shall remain confidential. 

Sec. 4.  4 V.S.A. § 5(a) is amended to read:

§ 5.  TERM OF JUSTICES

(a)  The term of the justices, except in case of an appointment to fill a vacancy, shall be for a term of six years from and including April 1 in the year of such appointment or retention under section subsection 4(c) of this title.  A justice shall be a resident of Vermont during his or her term.  When a justice of the supreme court, who has sat at the hearing of a cause, retires from office before such cause is decided, the justice shall remain a member of such court for the purpose of assisting in the decision thereof and of signing the entry order provided that such service may extend only to the following term of court.  For such service the justice shall receive a reasonable compensation to be fixed by the justices of such court and reasonable expenses while on office business.

Sec. 5.  4 V.S.A. § 71(a) is amended to read:

§ 71.  APPOINTMENT AND TERM OF SUPERIOR JUDGES

(a)  There shall be 15 superior judges, whose terms of office shall, except in the case of an appointment to fill a vacancy or unexpired term, begin on April 1 in the year of their appointment or retention, and continue for six years.  A superior judge shall be a resident of Vermont during his or her term.

Sec. 6.  4 V.S.A. § 1001(d) is amended to read:

§ 1001.  ENVIRONMENTAL COURT

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(d)  An environmental judge shall be appointed on April 1, for a term of six years or the unexpired portion thereof.  The environmental judge shall be a resident of Vermont during his or her term.

Sec. 7.  4 V.S.A. § 444(b) is amended to read:

§ 444.  JUDGES; NUMBER, APPOINTMENT, LIMITATIONS

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(b)  District judges shall be appointed in accordance with the constitution and chapter 15 of this title or retained in office under section subsection 604(a) of this title.  Terms of office of district judges, except in the case of an appointment to fill a vacancy or unexpired term, shall be for a term of six years from and including April 1 in the year of their appointment or retention.  A district judge shall be a resident of Vermont during his or her term.  A district judge shall remain in office until a successor is appointed and qualified, unless sooner removed for cause or unless he or she resigns.

Sec. 8.  4 V.S.A. § 461 is amended to read:

§ 461.  OFFICE OF MAGISTRATE; JURISDICTION; SELECTION; TERM

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(b)  A magistrate shall be an attorney admitted to practice in Vermont with at least four years of general law practice.  Magistrates shall be nominated, appointed, and confirmed in the manner of superior judges.

(c)  The term of office of a magistrate shall be six years.  A magistrate shall be a resident of Vermont during his or her term.  Any appointment to fill a vacancy shall be for the unexpired portion of the term vacated.  A magistrate may be reappointed by the governor under this section without review by the judicial nominating board, but a reappointment shall require the consent of the senate.

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Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont


www.leg.state.vt.us