Governor Phil Scott filled three of the four vacant judge positions on the Vermont Superior Court on Monday. If confirmed by the Senate, Jericho’s Elizabeth Novotny, Quechee’s Heather Gray and Underhill’s Justin Jiron would join the bench.
Scott chose his nominees from a slate of nominees provided by the state’s Judicial Appointments Board, which includes lawmakers, governor’s representatives and members of the Vermont Bar Association. Once confirmed, judges serve six-year terms and then face a retention decision from the legislature.
“There are few responsibilities greater than governors who make judicial appointments,” Scott said Monday in a written statement.
“Those responsible for interpreting the law and upholding justice have an enormous duty,” he said. “People’s lives and livelihoods are often in their hands, and it is essential that judges demonstrate integrity, honesty, compassion and impartiality. “
Novotny, Gray and Jiron fit this bill, he said.
Monday’s appointments would fill positions left vacant by former judges Mary Teachout, Robert Bent and Howard VanBenthuysen. As of Monday, according to Scott spokesperson Jason Maulucci, there was a vacant position in the Superior Court and he was being appointed by the board of directors.
The state judiciary has been criticized in the past for lack of gender equity, including from Scott himself. Over two years ago, the governor accused the Council of judicial appointment of gender bias, an accusation one board member at the time called “bullshit.”
If Novotny, Gray and Jiron are confirmed, according to Maulucci, 12 women and 23 men will serve as Superior Court judges. Since Scott became governor in January 2017, he has appointed five men and five women to the tribunal, Maulucci said.
Scott’s office provided brief biographies of the judicial candidates:
- Novotny has legal experience in both the public and private sectors as Deputy District Attorney for Chittenden County, Legal Adviser to the Departments of Public Safety and State Financial Regulation, and as a partner in the law firm. Perry and Schmucker. Currently, Novotny is General Counsel at the Mosaic Learning Center, an independent school for students with intellectual disabilities. She is a past president of the Vermont Bar Association and attended law school at the University of Vermont and Suffolk University.
- Gray has served as the Road Safety Resource Attorney with Vermont State Department Attorneys and Sheriffs since September 2017. Prior to that, she was Assistant Attorney in Franklin County for nine years and Associate Lawyer practicing civil and family law at Clark Werner & Flynn. in Burlington. Gray was an instructor and trainer at the Vermont Police Academy. She obtained a diploma in paralegal studies from Notre Dame College and completed a four-year internship to become a lawyer in 2005.
- Jiron has been a prosecutor in the Chittenden County State Prosecutor’s Office since 2003 and has been the Deputy Chief State Prosecutor since 2016. He has prosecuted various crimes over the past 18 years, but since 2006 he has been the prosecutor principal for drug sales cases in the area in coordination with the United States Attorney’s Office in Burlington. Previously, Jiron spent three years in private practice with the law firm McPhillips, Fitzgerald and Cullum in Glens Falls, New York. He attended the University of Vermont and Albany Law School and served in the US Army Infantry. He was honorably released in 1993.
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