Vt. lawmakers vote to keep judges

March 30, 2011

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MONTPELIER, Vt.—All five Vermont Supreme Court justices and nine trial judges have won new six-year terms on the bench as a result of the Legislature's judicial retention process.

The House and Senate met in a joint session on Wednesday and voted to retain the 14 jurists. The only judge who was generating controversy, Mark Keller, withdrew his name from consideration for another term on the bench.

While some states elect judges and others give lifetime appointments, Vermont takes a middle course, with judges being appointed by the governor and then coming up for review by lawmakers every six years.

The judges given new six-year terms included Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul Reiber and Associate Justices John Dooley, Denise Johnson, Marilyn Skoglund and Brian Burgess.

Keller announced March 18 that he was withdrawing his bid for reappointment, a day after getting a vote of no-confidence from a legislative panel. He was cited for what critics called bad courtroom demeanor, an issue that had come up in his previous retention case six years earlier.

Reading a short statement at the Franklin County court house in response to a 6-2 vote against his retention, Keller said then that his courtroom demeanor was only a problem for some. He said well-prepared lawyers who appeared before him had no problem with it, but the ones who came before him unprepared did.

The 59-year-old jurist's term officially expires Friday, but state law allows a judge to remain in office until a successor is in place unless he or she was removed for cause or chose to resign early. He will stay on the bench until a successor is appointed.