Douglas asks for new slate of judicial nominees

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(Host) Governor Jim Douglas wants a new list of candidates to fill a vacancy on the Vermont Supreme Court. The governor asked the Judicial Nominating Board on Friday to reopen the application process. He’s concerned that the board gave him a list of nominees that was too limited.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) Like his predecessor, Howard Dean, Governor Douglas has been frustrated with the Supreme Court nominating process. Both governors asked the Judicial Nominating Board to go back to square one and provide additional names to choose from.

Douglas says he has nothing against the people on the list he received last month. But he says the names of some qualified lawyers were not sent to him for consideration.

(Douglas) “I want to make sure that I have the broadest possible pool from whom to choose. This is an appointment that is something the governor makes not very frequently and the impact of which will last a long time. So I want to be sure I have all the qualified applicants from whom to select.”

(Dillon) The opening on the five-member court was created when Associate Justice James Morse left the bench to take a job in the Douglas Administration. The governor is required to pick from the list screened by the nominating board. In this case, the board selected six people out of about 30 applications.

The chairwoman of the board, Pittsford Republican Representative Peg Flory, says the panel will put out the word that it’s looking for new candidates.

(Flory) “I think we sent up some good names. Now that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other names that are out there that haven’t applied who would also be good candidates.”

(Dillon) Judges used to be elected by the General Assembly. But three decades ago, the Legislature passed a constitutional amendment that did away with that system. As a young House member, Douglas says he supported the change to make the process less political. The governor says the Legislature now may want to fine tune how the nominating board screens applicants.

(Douglas) “I believe that the board did not send on all the qualified candidates and that we need to look at the process in light of that, and make sure that the screening process is not too strict.”

(Dillon) Representative Flory says she hopes the board can get some more names to the governor by the end of August.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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