Vermont State Legislature's judicial retention committee says "no" to retaining judge with alleged courtroom demeanor issues

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March 31, 2011

Vermont

Vermont: On March 17, six of eight members of Vermont's Joint Committee on Judicial Retention voted, 6-2, against retaining Judge Mark Keller for a new six-year term on the bench.

The 6-2 vote against retention ultimately led to Judge Keller withdrawing his request to be retained. Eldred French, one of the two committee members who did vote to retain Keller, said, "There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that Judge Keller is a fine man and a terrific judge," but also noted that surveys and taped evidence had suggested to the committee that Judge Keller was confrontational in the courtroom in a way that is unacceptable and that this problem had been in evidence for some time: "The most troublesome thing to me is that this is not a new problem."[1]

The full statement from Judge Keller when he announced his withdrawal was:

"Although I disagree with the final results, I accept the decision of the legislative committee and have notified the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate that I am withdrawing my request to be retained by the full Legislature.

Many members of the public and many lawyers supported me and voiced their opinions to the Legislature and to the committee. I am profoundly thankful for their support.

I have been involved in the court system for 35 years. Through my career as the Chittenden County State's Attorney and then in private practice I was frequently frustrated by the pace of the court system and the effect that continuances, non-action and delayed decisions had on litigants and victims of crime.

When I came to the bench I vowed not to be a judge who put cases off to another day; I was not going to contribute to the anxiety and uncertainty by inaction and taking the easy course. I was determined that Vermonters were going to get action in my court and receive results.

Much has been said about my demeanor. I believe that the hard working, well prepared lawyers, of which there are many, had no complaints with my demeanor. The few lawyers that came to my courtroom unprepared, wasting their client's money, the court's resources, and ultimately the taxpayers' money, did have a problem.

I am very proud of my nearly 12 years as a judge. It has been an honor to serve the people of Vermont." [1]

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