Supreme Court Justices
The Vermont Supreme Court, 1778-Present
The Chief Justice and the four Associate Justices of the Supreme Court are appointed for six-year terms by the Governor. The Governor selects his or her nominee from a slate of applicants who are recommended by the Judicial Nominating Board. The Governor’s appointee must then be confirmed by the State Senate.
The origins of the Supreme Court can be traced back to the 1777 Vermont Constitution which directed that “courts of justice shall be established in every county in this state.” In 1778, the General Assembly initially established a system of special courts prior to creating a Superior Court in October of that year. The Superior Court consisted of a Chief Judge and four other judges elected annually by the General Assembly and Governor and Council. The Superior Court met four times a year for one week in four different locations in the State.
In 1782, county courts were established with one Chief Judge and four to five Assistant Judges elected by voters in each county. The Superior Court was abolished and the Supreme Court was created. The five judges of the Supreme Court were elected annually by the General Assembly. The Supreme Court met once in each county during the year. In 1787, the number of Supreme Court Judges was reduced to three.
The Vermont court system again was reorganized in 1825. The Supreme Court Judges assumed the role of the Chief Judges in the county courts and thus traveled to various counties throughout the year to preside over those courts. In addition to their county court duties, the Judges continued to serve as the Supreme Court when all the Judges sat together for Supreme Court terms. The number of Supreme Court Judges was increased to four in 1825 and then increased again in 1828 to five members.
In 1847, the number of Judges was increased to six. Two years later, the General Assembly enacted legislation that established a Circuit Court. Rather than have Supreme Court Judges preside over the county courts, four Superior Court judges were each assigned a circuit of county courts over which to preside. The number of Supreme Court Judges was again reduced to three. The Circuit Court however was abolished in 1857, and the Supreme Court was expanded to six Judges who resumed the role of presiding over the county courts.
In 1906, the General Assembly reorganized the judiciary to include six Superior Judges to resume the duties of holding the county courts. The number of Supreme Court Judges was reduced to four and the court’s terms subsequently were held in Montpelier rather than in the county courts. In 1908, the size of the Supreme Court was increased by one with the addition of a Chief Justice. The five-member court has continued to the present day.