Chittenden County Probate Court Judge Gregory Glennon agreed to a formal reprimand by the state's judicial oversight board last week over his conduct during a rare contested primary election for the post in 2018.
Glennon, the incumbent, raised more than $14,000 to defeat former Winooski mayor Bill Norful — much of it in $150 contributions from local attorneys who had cases in Glennon's court. Norful last year cast the solicitations as "unethical" and "absolutely improper," but the well-connected judge fired back against the "disgraceful" allegations and had threatened to report Norful to the Vermont Bar Counsel.
The state's judicial code of conduct prohibits judges from personally asking for public support or campaign donations. Glennon defended the donations he received by clarifying that his campaign committee solicited donations on his behalf, Seven Days reported in August 2018.
But Glennon also approached lawyers who practiced in probate court about whether they'd be on his campaign committee, a Vermont Judicial Conduct Board investigator found.
That "could have placed attorneys appearing before him and whom he contacted in the uncomfortable position of having to agree or decline to support the Judge in his election campaign or to assist his campaign in some capacity," special counsel Bonnie Badgewick wrote in a settlement stipulation entered July 2.
The board investigated Glennon in response to an anonymous complaint, according to the stipulation.
As part of the settlement, Glennon acknowledged that his actions created an "appearance of impropriety," violating a canon found in the Judicial Code of Conduct.
The stipulation also states that the candidate did so with "no motives of personal gain, and that his conduct was negligent and not intentional."
In addition to the formal reprimand, Glennon agreed to enter a yearlong mentoring program overseen by another judge. In exchange, the board agreed to drop its investigation into additional possible violations involving ex parte communications with attorneys. Such a communication refers to an instance when a judge speaks with someone involved in a case without the other party present.
"I think it's outrageous that a member of the bar would come on a public program that's televised and impugn an order of the Vermont Supreme Court and a judicial officer who is following to the letter that administrative order," Glennon said. "I think that's disgraceful, and I'm going to make sure that the Office of Bar Counsel knows about the show that Mr. Norful put on here tonight."
"Would you like three names of three lawyers you called?" Norful retorted.
Norful said Tuesday he didn't file the anonymous complaint with the Judicial Conduct Board, nor did he solicit one. Norful said he believed a public reprimand was an appropriate level of discipline, given that Glennon was a first-time candidate.
"Maybe in the heat of the battle he wasn't truthful and denied that," Norful added.
The judge never reported Norful to the bar counsel, as far as he knows.
Reached by phone Tuesday afternoon, Glennon told Seven Days he was "running into a meeting" and didn't have time to comment. Glennon did not respond to a follow-up voicemail left Wednesday morning.