Scott considers reopening high court nomination process

Phil Scott

Gov. Phil Scott on his inauguration day last week. File photo by Andrew Kutches/VTDigger

Gov. Phil Scott is considering restarting the nomination process to replace outgoing Supreme Court Justice John Dooley.

Scott’s spokesperson said he may ask the Judicial Nominating Board, a panel of lawmakers and legal professionals tasked with selecting candidates to sit on Vermont’s courts, to reopen the search.

The board already completed a round of interviews last year and forwarded a list of six candidates to then-Gov. Peter Shumlin in December.

Shumlin asked the board to begin the nominating process after Dooley announced in September that he plans to retire when his term expires April 1. The former governor intended to name a successor for the veteran of the court before leaving office last week.

However, Shumlin lost a challenge brought before the Supreme Court by House Minority Leader Don Turner, R-Milton, and Senate Minority Leader Joe Benning, R-Caledonia. The five-justice panel issued a unanimous decision last week that the responsibility for naming Dooley’s successor fell to the new governor.

As of Monday morning, Scott had not yet reviewed the list of six candidates the board completed in December, according to Scott spokesperson Rebecca Kelley.

Kelley confirmed Monday that the governor is consulting legal counsel about the pending high court vacancy and is considering asking to reopen the application process.

“We’re looking into it,” Kelley said.

Some potential candidates may not have submitted their names for consideration in the fall because of concerns about the validity of the process under the Shumlin administration, Kelley said.

She was not certain when Scott would make a decision about requesting to reopen applications. Legal counsel was still determining the timeline, she said.

Sen. Peg Flory, R-Rutland, who chairs the nominating board in her capacity as an attorney, said Monday she was not aware that Scott was considering reopening the process.

“I have not heard anything about that,” Flory said.

Several members of the board, including Flory, will be reaching the end of their terms on the panel within a few weeks. Kelley confirmed that the turnover on the board is one of the factors Scott is weighing as he decides how to proceed.

Scott will have the opportunity to appoint two members to the 11-person board.

(VTDigger’s Mark Johnson contributed to this report.)

Elizabeth Hewitt

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