Justice Morse discusses motivation to become SRS chief

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(Host) Vermont Supreme Court Justice James Morse says he’s resigning his seat to become the next SRS commissioner because he’s accomplished his goals on the bench. And he says, he hopes to have a direct impact on the state’s juvenile justice system.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Governor Jim Douglas made it official on Thursday afternoon – Supreme Court Justice James Morse is stepping down from the bench to become the new commissioner of Social and Rehabilitation Services. Morse was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1988 and previously served as a superior court for several years.

Morse says he became interested in the SRS commissioner’s job when it became clear that Governor Douglas was not going to reappoint longtime commissioner Bill Young. Morse says he’s always had a strong interest in juvenile justice issues and recently he served as the chair of special foster care committee:

(Morse) “And get those cases concluded so that children can either return home or be adopted, and not just handed around in the foster care system. And so I always had this dream, and then also decided that I’d been a judge for a long time – about 22 years. I’ve done just about everything I wanted to do. I felt this was a good opportunity to do something I really love.”

(Kinzel) Morse says he wants to work with the Legislature on a reorganization of the Human Services Agency and he says he plans to spend a lot of time meeting with the staff of his new department:

(Morse) “But I also want to get on the ground running. So I want to meet people and assure them that I’m not a pompous, robed tyrant that’s coming down there to…. I don’t know what stereotype judges have these days, but I hope that they don’t think I’m too aloof or anything like that.”

(Kinzel) Morse says it will take a few weeks for him to phase into his new job because he still has some work to finish up at the Supreme Court.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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