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The Vermont Judiciary                                                                                                                       
The Vermont court system consists of seven state courts:  the Supreme Court, the Superior Court, the District Court, the Family Court, the Probate Court, the Environmental Court, and the Vermont Judicial Bureau.

Supreme Court                                                                                    
The Supreme Court, the state's highest court, consists of a chief justice and four associate justices.  For the most part, it hears appeals of cases that have been decided by the other courts.  No evidence is presented during an appeal; the attorneys argue in writing and in the courtroom as to why they think the decision made in the lower court should be changed or remain the same.  If the Supreme Court overrules the decision of the trial court, it is done solely on issues of law.  The Supreme Court rarely reviews the jury's decision on the facts.  The Supreme Court also has overall administrative control of the court system and makes administrative and procedural rules for all courts. 

The Supreme Court offers a simulation program for students.  For more information, please contact Alice Merrill at 802-828-1411 or click here.

Superior Court                                                                                                                                    
The Superior Court hears predominantly civil cases including small claims cases in which people sue for $3,500 or less.  On occasion it hears criminal cases.  Each county has two assistant judges who sit with one of the Superior Court judges in most cases.  The assistant judges (who need not be attorneys) are elected county officials who are responsible for county affairs in addition to their responsibilities in court.

District Court                                                                                                                                      
The District Court hears predominantly criminal cases.  Assistant judges do not sit in the District Court.

Family Court                                                                                                                                       
The Family Court hears divorces, juvenile, domestic abuse, and child support cases.  The District and Superior Court judges as well as assistant judges are assigned to the Family Court.

Probate Court                                                                                                                                    
The Probate Court handles the probate of wills, the settlement of estates, adoptions, guardianships, name changes, and uniform gifts to minors.  There are 18 Probate Court judges who are elected for four-year terms.  There is no requirement that the judges of probate be attorneys.

Environmental Court                                                                                                                        
The Environmental Court hears appeals of Act 250 enforcement orders issued by the executive branch and also hears appeals of zoning decisions made by cities and towns.

Vermont Judicial Bureau                                                                                                                
The Vermont Judicial Bureau hears traffic ticket cases and violations of municipal ordinances, and some fish and wildlife violations, and others including hazing and minors possessing alcohol.

There is trial-by-jury only in Superior and District Courts.  Most jury work in Superior Court is civil.  Most jury work in District Court is criminal.

For more information about Vermont's Judiciary, visit www.vermontjudiciary.org.

 

 

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