Vermont Supreme Court Decisions

Dating from 1777, the Vermont Supreme Court holds the authority to make final decisions in appeals arising from any case in a Vermont court. The Supreme Court also supervises the legal profession in the state, including disciplinary matters for judges and attorneys. It issues rules of procedure for civil, criminal, and family cases, as well as the appellate process. Five justices serve on the Supreme Court, which was ranked as the seventh-most liberal state supreme court in the U.S. in a Stanford University study in 2012.

To serve on the Vermont Supreme Court, a prospective justice must have practiced law in Vermont for more than five of the last 10 years. Vermont imposes a mandatory retirement age of 70 on its justices, so no candidate can be 70 or older. Each justice serves a six-year term. Vermont uses the assisted appointment process to choose justices. This means that the Governor of Vermont reviews a list of candidates and chooses one of them to serve on the Court. Vermont differs from most states with regard to the process of retaining justices. Rather than holding a retention election or a general election, the state requires the legislature to vote on whether a justice should be retained at the end of their term.

A controversial decision by the Supreme Court involved the right to a speedy trial in a criminal case. It overturned a conviction of a defendant who was not tried for nearly three years after he was arrested. The delay resulted from the withdrawals and replacements of several public defenders, often at the defendant’s request. The Supreme Court ruled that the state had violated the defendant’s right to a speedy trial because it had not provided a public defender to represent him in a timely manner. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed this decision, ruling that public defenders work for their clients rather than the state. Delays or gaps in representation caused by the public defender or the defendant do not infringe on the right to a speedy trial.

Browse Opinions From the Vermont Supreme Court

Recent Decisions From the Vermont Supreme Court
State v. David Downing
Date: October 19, 2020
Citation: 2020 VT 97
Docket Number: 2020-258
Vermont v. Nelson  
Date: October 16, 2020
Citation: 2020 VT 94
Docket Number: 2018-333

Justia Opinion Summary: Defendant Morris Nelson appealed his convictions for: (1) repeated aggravated sexual assault as part of a common scheme and plan; (2) sexual assault of a victim under the age of eighteen entrusted to his care by authorit...

Vermont v. Williams  
Date: October 16, 2020
Citation: 2020 VT 91
Docket Numbers: 2019-022, 2019-023

Justia Opinion Summary: Defendants Peter Williams and Peter Boissoneault brought a consolidated appeal of the criminal court’s denial of motions to exclude evidence filed in their respective driving under the influence, third offense (DUI-3) pr...

Lanfear v. Ruggerio & Fennimore  
Date: October 16, 2020
Citation: 2020 VT 84
Docket Number: 2019-408

Justia Opinion Summary: Plaintiff appealed the family division’s decision declining to adjudicate her a de facto parent of J.F. pursuant to 15C V.S.A. 501(b). The family division found that plaintiff had failed to demonstrate by clear and convi...

Vermont v. Caron  
Date: October 16, 2020
Citation: 2020 VT 96
Docket Number: 2020-057

Justia Opinion Summary: Defendant Robert Caron, Sr. appealed his conviction by jury of sexual assault–no consent. In June 2018, complainant, then thirty-four years old, reported to the Bennington Police Department that she had been sexually ass...

Blake v. Petrie  
Date: October 16, 2020
Citation: 2020 VT 92
Docket Number: 2020-070

Justia Opinion Summary: Damon Petrie appealed the family division’s denial of his motion to dismiss his ex-wife, Angela Blake’s, attempt to enforce a judgment she obtained in their divorce action. Petrie claimed enforcement of the judgment was...

In re A.M. & G.M.  
Date: October 16, 2020
Citation: 2020 VT 95
Docket Number: 2020-097

Justia Opinion Summary: Parents appealed the termination of their rights in A.M. and G.M., ages five and four. Parents struggled with substance abuse and were incarcerated periodically during the underlying proceedings. In January 2018, the Dep...

Scheffler v. Harrington  
Date: October 16, 2020
Citation: 2020 VT 93
Docket Number: 2020-102

Justia Opinion Summary: Defendant Raymond Harrington appealed the issuance of a relief-from-abuse order requiring him to have no contact with and stay a hundred feet away from plaintiff Melissa Scheffler (his sister), her residence, and their m...

In re A.P., Juvenile  
Date: October 9, 2020
Citation: 2020 VT 86
Docket Number: 2019-246

Justia Opinion Summary: Juvenile A.P. appealed an adjudication of delinquency based on “open and gross lewdness and lascivious behavior” under 13 V.S.A. section 2601. Juvenile argued: (1) the evidence did not support a finding that his conduct...

Vermont National Telephone Company v. Department of Taxes  
Date: October 9, 2020
Citation: 2020 VT 83
Docket Number: 2019-280

Justia Opinion Summary: Vermont National Telephone Company (VNT) appealed the state Commissioner of Taxes’ determination that, pursuant to Department of Taxes Regulation section 1.5833-1, the capital gain VNT earned from the 2013 sale of two Fe...

State v. Christian James
Date: October 9, 2020
Citation: 2007 VT 124
Docket Number: 2019-313
State of Vermont v. Brenda Marie Thomson
Date: October 9, 2020
Citation: 2020 VT 46
Docket Number: 2020-038
Michelle Kirby v. Jamie Wool
Date: October 9, 2020
Citation: 2005 VT 36
Docket Number: 2020-046
In re Founder's Hall Act 250 (Sara Dillon, Appellant)
Date: October 9, 2020
Citation: 2019 VT 52
Docket Number: 2020-068
In re James Rivers
Date: October 9, 2020
Citation: 2014 VT 27
Docket Number: 2020-103
The opinions published on Justia State Caselaw are sourced from individual state court sites. These court opinions may not be the official published versions, and you should check your local court rules before citing to them. We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this site, or the information linked to on the state site.