VERMONT STANDARD QUESTION #3 - FOR 8.31.06
"describe your understanding of the various duties of an assistant Judge and how you are best suited for these needs."
The primary duty of an Assistant Judge is judicial. A fully functioning side judge spends the overwhelming majority of his or her time in court.
In Superior Court and Family Court, the Assistant Judges sit as fact finders with a presiding, law-trained judge. Together they form a kind of mini-jury. Issues of law are the purview of the presiding judge, but as a practical matter, most decisions are made collegially. I have sat in both courts for over 15 years and currently I'm the only side judge sitting in Family Court.
With additional training, qualified Assistant Judges may preside alone over Small Claims cases in Superior Court, uncontested divorces in Family Court, and traffic citations and municipal ordinance violations in the Judicial Bureau. I have sat in each of these jurisdictions for a number of years. Currently I'm the only side judge qualified to do so. I was the first side judge to travel to another county to hear traffic cases.
Assistant Judges have a responsibility to preserve and strengthen the role of the citizen in Vermont's judiciary. This includes living by the Vermont Code of Judicial Conduct, which severely limits partisan political activity. This also includes participating in the Vermont Association of County Judges, the statewide organization of Assistant Judges. I was part of the small group that wrote the founding documents of the VACJ and I have served as the VACJ's secretary for many years.
The Assistant Judges are responsible for proposing the county budget, presenting it to the public, and setting and overseeing the final budget. For all the present attention on the budget, public budget hearings have never been well-attended in the past two decades. When I was first in office, I created the Windsor County Courthouse news and have since written hundreds of articles informing the public of county business. I am the only Assistant Judge in Vermont who makes such an effort at public communication.