Courts & Judiciary

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Vermont officials push back on Trump orders with legislation

MONTPELIER — Vermont state officials flexed their muscles Thursday, unveiling proposed legislation to prevent law enforcement agencies in Vermont from cooperating with federal authorities on immigration enforcement in response to executive orders from Republican President Donald Trump. Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, appeared at a news conference Thursday with Democratic Attorney General T.J. Donovan and a tri-partisan group of lawmakers from both the House and Senate in an extraordinary show of cooperation. They worked collaboratively to craft legislation they say will address the federal government’s “overreach” in a series of executive orders signed by the president. Scott has emerged as one of the highest-profile Republican governors to buck Trump’s efforts to boost immigration enforcement and enhance border security. “We can’t pick and choose what pieces of the Constitution we defend and that is why we are here today,” the governor said. Continue Reading →

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House lawmakers seek legal marijuana, lesser penalties for possession of other drugs

MONTPELIER — Members of the House Judiciary Committee have introduced bills to legalize the possession of 2 ounces or less or marijuana, and reduce the penalties for possessing other drugs like cocaine and heroin in small amounts. The bills were introduced by Chairwoman Maxine Grad, D-Moretown, Rep. Chip Conquest, D-Wells River and Rep. Thomas Burditt, R-West Rutland. The marijuana bill, H.170, would remove all criminal and civil penalties for possession of less than 2 ounces of marijuana, two or fewer mature marijuana plants and seven or fewer immature plants. The legislation does not create a legal, regulated market in the state, however. The Senate passed legislation last year to do that, but it failed spectacularly in the House. Continue Reading →

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Scott to consider eight potential Supreme Court justices

MONTPELIER — The state’s Judicial Nominating Board sent eight names to Gov. Phil Scott Tuesday for his consideration as replacements for a retiring Vermont Supreme Court justice. Scott, a Republican, will select a replacement for Justice John Dooley after the Supreme Court rejected former Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin’s attempt to name a new a justice. Shumlin, who left office on Jan. 5, had attempted to name Dooley’s successor, even though Dooley is not scheduled to leave the bench until April 1. Dooley announced last September that he was not seeking retention and would leave the bench when his term expires on April 1. Continue Reading →

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Speaker, Pro Tem back governor’s plans to oppose Trump order

MONTPELIER — Democratic leaders in the House and Senate say they are firmly behind Republican Gov. Phil Scott’s plans to oppose a presidential executive order that seeks the help of state and local law enforcement in targeting immigrants, among other things. Scott unveiled a series of actions Monday that he is taking to protect Vermonters and immigrants in response to an executive order signed Friday by Republican President Donald Trump. Scott called the order an “overreach” because it seeks help from state and local law enforcement “to perform the functions of immigration officers in relation to the investigation, apprehension, or detention of aliens in the United States.”

In announcing the steps his administration is taking, Scott vowed to “stand up for the rights and civil liberties of all those in our state.”

On Tuesday, House Speaker Mitzi Johnson, D-South Hero, and Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe, D-Chittenden, said they support Scott’s efforts. “We look forward to partnering with the governor on insuring people’s civil rights,” Johnson said. Ashe, meanwhile, said the Senate is “happy” to see Scott taking action. Continue Reading →

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Delegation vows to fight refugee ban

MONTPELIER — Vermont’s congressional delegation is promising to stand up to a presidential executive order that will halt the arrival of Syrian refugees in Vermont and stop people from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S. for at least 90 days. President Donald Trump signed an executive order Friday afternoon indefinitely barring Syrians from entering the country and suspends all immigrants from entering the country for 120 days. Meanwhile, citizens of seven countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen are forbidden to the enter the U.S. for 90 days. People from those countries, as well as students, tourists and even those with legal permanent status in the U.S., were stopped at airports beginning Friday and prevented from entering the country. Some were sent back overseas. Continue Reading →

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Scott vows to protect immigrants

MONTPELIER — Vermont Gov. Phil Scott says he intends to protect immigrants in Vermont and push back on an executive order signed Friday by Republican President Donald Trump, but has yet to outline how he intends to do that. Trump signed an executive order late Friday afternoon that indefinitely bars Syrians from entering the country and suspends all immigrants from entering the country for 120 days. Meanwhile, all citizens of seven countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen are not allowed to the enter the U.S. for 90 days. People from those countries, as well as students, tourists and even those will legal permanent status in the U.S., were stopped at airports beginning Friday and prevented from entering the country. Some were sent back overseas. Continue Reading →

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Supreme Court denies Shumlin’s appointment authority

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Supreme Court ruled unanimously against outgoing Gov. Peter Shumlin Wednesday, barring him from appointing a new justice to join its ranks and delivering a stinging blow on his penultimate day in office. Shumlin, a Democrat, had hoped to appoint a replacement for Justice John Dooley, who revealed in September that he was not seeking retention on the court. Shumlin triggered the replacement process by calling upon the Judicial Nominating Board to send him the names of well qualified candidates to succeed Dooley, who will leave the bench when his term expires on April 1. But Rep. Donald Turner, the House minority leader, and Sen. Joe Benning, the Senate minority leader, petitioned the Supreme Court on Dec. 21 asking it to prevent Shumlin from making the appointment. Continue Reading →

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Supreme Court hears appointment case, decision pending

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday on whether outgoing Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin can appoint a replacement for one of its members, Justice John Dooley, before Shumlin leaves office on Thursday. The hearing Tuesday, held in a packed Supreme Court chamber filled with media, lawmakers, statewide elected officials and other observers, was triggered by a petition filed by Rep. Donald Turner and Sen. Joe Benning just before Christmas challenging Shumlin’s authority to name Dooley’s replacement. The justices made no indication Tuesday afternoon before ending the court session when it would issue a ruling. However, the court is expected to rule imminently in order to settle the matter before Republican Gov.-elect Phil Scott is sworn into office on Thursday afternoon. Should the justices rule in Shumlin’s favor he could then name a replacement for Dooley on Wednesday when the new Senate is sworn in. Continue Reading →

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Shumlin issues 192 pardons for pot possession

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 11:35 a.m. to include additional information. MONTPELIER — Outgoing Gov. Peter Shumlin issued 192 pardons to Vermonters convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana, fulfilling a promise he made last month and setting a new record for pardons issued by a single governor in the state’s history. Shumlin, a Democrat, announced on Dec. 8 that he was offering pardons to as many as 17,000 Vermonters who were convicted of possessing marijuana before the state decriminalized the offense in 2013, making it a civil violation akin to a traffic ticket. He said the offer was intended to help create “a more sane drug policy.”

A total of 460 people applied for a pardon through a special application created by the Shumlin administration. Continue Reading →

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Sears backs Shumlin in Supreme Court legal battle

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 4:30 p.m. to include comments from Gov.-elect Phil Scott. MONTPELIER — The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee has filed a friend of the court brief with the Supreme Court defending Gov. Peter Shumlin’s authority to appoint a Supreme Court justice before he leaves office on Thursday. Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, a close friend and political ally of Shumlin, submitted the legal argument ahead of a Tuesday hearing scheduled by the state’s highest court to determine if Shumlin can make the appointment. Sears is asking the court to dismiss or deny the petition filed by two lawmakers challenging Shumlin’s authority. “Once the vice chair of the committee got involved I thought the chairman ought to get involved,” Sears told the Vermont Press Bureau. Continue Reading →

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