|| A Judge Lynching: ASSISTANT JUDGES MAKE THEIR CASE TO LEGISLATORS STATEWIDE|
WINDSOR COUNTY COURTHOUSE NEWS (#1.3.10)|
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (1 Jan. 2010)
CONTACT: William Boardman (802) 457-1782
ASSISTANT JUDGES MAKE THEIR CASE TO LEGISLATORS STATEWIDE
By William Boardman, Assistant Judge
W0ODSTOCK - As the old year turned, legislators across Vermont heard from the Assistant Judges among their constituents, as the judges argued the case not only for preserving the office, but expanding it.
The judges' letter begins, "We are urging you to support legislation that will expand the duties and responsibilities of Vermont's 28 Assistant Judges. This is one sure way to guarantee that all Vermonters will continue to have access to high-quality judicial services at the lowest possible cost."
While all the judges worked from the same basic letter, they modified it from county to county. The Windsor County letter, signed by Assistant Judges David Singer and William Boardman, emphasized that "Assistant Judges are Constitutional Officers who are elected as the people's representatives in the Judicial Branch."
The elected judges here set the letter to the elected legislative delegation of Windsor County, 15 State Representatives and 3 Senators.
The Assistant Judges - as they are called in the Vermont Constitution - have played a judicial role in the judiciary since the American Revolution. The current Supreme Court proposed doing away with Assistant Judges as judicial officers, while the Assistant Judges suggest that judges without judicial duties makes a mockery of both the Vermont Constitution and the English language.
Moreover, the judges argue, the evidence is clear that Assistant Judges who take the necessary legal training do just as well as lawyer-judges in terms of disposing of cases and having their decisions upheld. And they do so for a fraction of the cost.
"Nothing better dramatizes how we save the State money than taking a quick look at Traffic Court," the Windsor County judges wrote. "In 2008, 14 law-trained Assistant Judges presided in 7,552 hearings in Traffic Court for a total cost of $57,027. By comparison, the state paid almost five times as much for three lawyer-Hearing Officers to hear fewer cases."
The State paid the three lawyer-Hearing Officers $257,793 to hear 6,772 cases. That computes to $38.06 per case, compared to $7.55 per case before an Assistant Judge. In other words, the State saves $30 per case every time an Assistant Judge hears a case instead of a Hearing Officer.
In Small Claims, the analysis is less precise, although Assistant Judges save the State even more money when they sit on Small Claims instead of lawyer judges. On the other hand, when the work is outsourced to privately contracted attorneys, the cost per hearing is less, but the presiding lawyer-judge is still left to provide whatever continuity the Small Claims court needs.
In Windsor County, both Assistant Judges Singer and Boardman hear traffic cases. Judge Boardman hears all the county's Small Claims cases. He also hears uncontested divorces once a month, at a fraction of the cost of the presiding lawyer-judge who would otherwise have to hear them.
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