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Judicial selection in Vermont

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Judicial selection in the states
Judicial selection in Vermont
Seal of Vermont.png
Vermont Supreme Court
Method:   Comm. select., Gov. appt. with Senate confirmation
Term:   6 years
Vermont Superior Court
Method:   Comm. select., Gov. appt. with Senate confirmation
Term:   6 years
Vermont Probate Division
Method:   Partisan elections
Term:   4 years

Selection of state court judges in Vermont occurs largely through merit selection, or the commission selection, political appointment method. Judges are appointed by the governor from a list of names provided by a nominating commission, after which they face confirmation from the state senate. Appointed judges face retention by vote of the Vermont General Assembly at the end of each six-year term.[1]

Supreme and Superior Court

See also: Commission-selection, political appointment method of judicial selection

The justices of the supreme court and judges of the superior court are selected in an identical manner. The governor appoints each judge from a list provided by a nominating board, and the Vermont Senate confirms the appointee.[1]

Once confirmed, appointees serve six-year terms. At the end of each term, judges face retention by vote of the Vermont General Assembly.[1]

Selection of the chief justice or judge

The chief justice of the supreme court is chosen through the same merit selection plan used to select other judges, serving in that capacity for a full six-year term.[1]

Presiding judges of the superior courts are chosen by the supreme court. They serve in that capacity for four years, but the supreme court is authorized to remove them at any time.[1]


To serve on the Vermont Supreme Court or the Vermont Superior Courts, a judge must:

  • have practiced law as an attorney or served as a judge in the state for more than 5 of the last 10 years and
  • be under the age of 70.*

*Sitting judges who turn 70 while in office are permitted to serve until the end of that calendar year. Retired judges may occasionally be appointed to special assignments by the supreme court.[2]


When a midterm vacancy occurs, the judgeship is filled through the same merit selection method otherwise used to select judges. Interim judges serve until the expiration of their predecessor's term.[1]

Probate division

See also: Partisan election of judges

Judges serving in the probate division of the superior court are elected in partisan elections. They serve four-year terms which begin on February 1 following their election.[3]

Judicial Bureau

Hearing officers of the Vermont Judicial Bureau are appointed by the presiding superior court judges from among state bar members. They serve four-year terms.[4]


Selection methods in Vermont have undergone several changes since the inception of the judiciary. Below is a timeline noting the various stages, from the most recent to the earliest:

  • 1974: The state constitution is amended, instating the following changes:
    • The merit selection method is adopted for Vermont judges. A judicial nominating board submits a list of qualified candidates to the governor, whose appointee must face confirmation by the state senate.
    • Judges are to serve six-year terms, after which they must be retained by a majority vote of the general assembly.
  • 1967: The general assembly establishes a panel to review candidates for interim vacancies. The panel provides the governor with a list of qualified candidates from which to select a replacement judge.
  • 1870: All judges are elected by the general assembly, serving two-year terms.
  • 1850: Inferior court judges are elected by popular vote to one-year terms.
  • 1786: All judges are elected to one-year terms by joint vote of the general assembly and the council.
  • 1777: All judges are appointed by the governor with consent from the council.[5]

Selection of federal judges

United States district court judges, who are selected from each state, go through a different selection process than that of state judges.

The district courts are served by Article III federal judges who are appointed for life, during "good behavior." They are usually first recommended by senators (or members of the House, occasionally). The President of the United States of America nominates judges, who must then be confirmed by the United States Senate in accordance with Article III of the United States Constitution.[6]

Step ApprovedA Candidacy Proceeds DefeatedD Candidacy Halts
1. Recommendation made by Congress member to the President President nominates to Senate Judiciary Committee President declines nomination
2. Senate Judiciary Committee interviews candidate Sends candidate to Senate for confirmation Returns candidate to President, who may re-nominate to committee
3. Senate votes on candidate confirmation Candidate becomes federal judge Candidate does not receive judgeship

See also

External links


VermontVermont Supreme CourtVermont Superior CourtsVermont Probate CourtVermont Judicial BureauUnited States District Court for the District of VermontUnited States bankruptcy court, District of VermontUnited States Court of Appeals for the Second CircuitVermont countiesVermont judicial newsVermont judicial electionsJudicial selection in VermontVermontTemplate.jpg