Left to right: Supreme Court Justices Beth Robinson, John Dooley and Harold Eaton Jr.
Two days before he steps down, Gov. Peter Shumlin will need to convince the Vermont Supreme Court that he has the legal right to appoint a replacement for retiring Justice John Dooley. The court has temporarily blocked Shumlin from picking a new justice in response to a legal challenge from House Minority Leader Don Turner (R-Milton).
“By looking to make a consequential executive decision that should rightly be made in April 2017, at a time well past his gubernatorial tenure, Gov. Shumlin is setting a troubling precedent of overreach,” Turner said in a statement announcing his legal challenge.
Reached Friday, Turner said he’s “very pleased” with the court order and is confident he’ll prevail. “When I look up vacancy in the dictionary, it means no one is in the position,” Turner said.
Shumlin spokesperson Scott Coriell told Seven Days that “the governor has been following the law” per this state statute: “Whenever a vacancy occurs in the office of a Supreme Court Justice, a Superior Court judge, magistrate, or Chair of the Public Service Board, or when an incumbent does not declare that he or she will be a candidate to succeed himself or herself, the [Judicial Nominating] Board shall submit to the Governor the names of as many persons as it deems well qualified to be appointed to the office.”
Coriell said Shumlin has interviewed the six candidates submitted to him by the Judicial Nominating Board but has not yet named a replacement for Dooley. Coriell deferred to Attorney General Bill Sorrell, who could not be reached, for further comment.