Through a quirk in timing, all five members of the Vermont Supreme Court are up for a retention vote this year.
Sections 32-34 of the Vermont Constitution establish the procedure for the filling of judicial vacancies in the state’s courts. Vacancies are filled by the Governor from a list of nominees presented by a judicial nominating body established by the General Assembly. The judges then must get Senate confirmation. They serve for six years and may then submit their names to the full General Assembly. The judges are automatically continued in office “unless a majority of the members of the General Assembly voting on the question vote against continuation in office.”
State statutes require a Joint Committee on Judicial Retention conduct at least two public hearings on the re-appointments by March 10 and that the General Assembly vote by March 17. The same statutes, however, allow for extensions of time, which is precisely what JRS 20 is intended to do, extending the deadline for the General Assembly’s vote to March 24.
JRS 20 was approved by the Senate on March 9 and is currently pending in the House.