Vermont Supreme Court’s newest justice, Geoffrey Crawford, sworn in

WAITING FOR PERMISSION TO USE Vermont Supreme Court Associate Justice Geoffrey Crawford is sworn in by Gov. Peter Shumlin on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013, in Burlington. Photo courtesy Governor's Office

Vermont Supreme Court Associate Justice Geoffrey Crawford is sworn in by Gov. Peter Shumlin on Wednesday in Burlington. Photo courtesy Governor’s Office

BURLINGTON — Gov. Peter Shumlin welcomed Associate Justice Geoffrey Crawford to the Vermont Supreme Court on Wednesday at the Costello Courthouse in Burlington.

Speakers at the swearing-in ceremony cheered the former Chittenden Superior Court judge’s addition to the state’s highest court of appeals, acknowledging Crawford’s wit, humor, compassion, intelligence and ability to do the job.

State Administrative Judge Amy Davenport described the positive influence Crawford will likely bring to the court. She said Crawford connects personally with every member of his staff, he adds humor to the courtroom and brings an “out-of-the-box” perspective to his work.

She cited an example when Crawford heard a case as a criminal court judge in Washington County involving a person who was charged with driving while intoxicated, which typically carried a fine of $400. The minimum fee was a norm of the court that everyone complied with, Davenport said.

“In every case it was a $400 fine and it had been like that for years,” she said.

It was Crawford’s first assignment in the criminal court, she said. Crawford took the plea agreement, which included the $400 fee, crossed it out and wrote in $250 because he did not believe the defendant could afford the fee, Davenport said.

“A shockwave,” she said. “Through the State’s Attorneys Office, through the entire county.”

That’s just one example of Crawford’s character that will improve the administration of justice, Davenport said.

“I have no doubt that he will do an amazing job. But I also have no doubt that 111 State Street is not going to be the same again,” she said.

Crawford will join four other justices on the bench: Chief Justice Paul Reiber and Associate Justices John Dooley, Marilyn Skoglund and Beth Robinson. Crawford replaces retiring Justice Brian Burgess, who was appointed by former Republican Gov. Jim Douglas in 2005.

During the swearing-in ceremony, Crawford greeted his new colleagues by recognizing their admirable qualities while also teasing them for their personal reputations.

Dooley, he said, is known for his intelligence but has scarred Crawford by the many times he has reversed lower court’s rulings, tattooing the “scarlet R for reversed” across his forehead.

Robinson adds qualities of balance and decency to the court, he said, sometimes making others feel like children.

Skoglund, whose personality indicates that she came directly from the Canterbury Tales, a series of medieval stories, is funny and quick, he said.

Lastly, he said Reiber arrived on the bench “fully grown, like Pallas Athena, emerging from the forehead of Jim Douglas,” and is now universally esteemed by trial judges.

Crawford started his career practicing law for O’Neill, Crawford and Green in Burlington. He then served as a trial court judge before he was appointed by former Democratic Gov. Howard Dean to the state Superior Court in 2002. Most recently, he served as a judge in Chittenden Superior Court.

John Herrick

Comments

  1. Fred Woogmaster :

    There seems to be no doubt that Judge Crawford is an excellent selection.

    If one believes as I do that the system is “broken”, the paradigm is out-of-date, and that “justice” is largely purchased by those with means, this appointment is important but in and of itself will do little to create reform.

    If Justice Crawford plays an active role in reform and provides the necessary leadership, good things will happen.

    Fairness is supposedly the American way. Our court system, in my opinion, is largely unfair. Money tilts the table.

    The expense of defense is exorbitant related to the average income of defendants. Justice Crawford knows that.

  2. Pat McGarry :

    Being able to pay for a private lawyer does give a defendant advantages over someone with court appointed counsel.

    However, the Vermont Supreme Court does not exist to “play an active role in reform”. If you read a lot of Vermont appellate cases involving criminal trial issues, you’ll find that the justices frequently can’t consider an issue because a court appointed lawyer didn’t object at trial.

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