Side judge

Side judge, or assistant judge, is a judicial position apparently unique to the state of Vermont. There are two side judges in each of Vermont's 14 counties. Like lay judges, side judges are usually not legal professionals.

Duties and responsibilities

While Family, District and Superior Court judges are appointed by the Governor, probate and side judges are elected. Side judges run at-large (not specifically for one of the two seats) and county-wide in November of even-numbered, non-presidential election years, and serve four-year terms. The terms begin on the following February 1.[1]

In the event of a vacancy, the Governor is empowered to appoint a replacement.[2]

Side judges sit with the judge in Superior (civil cases and violations of traffic laws and municipal ordinances) and Family Court. There are Superior and Family Courts located in each of Vermont's 14 counties at their "shire town" or county seat.[3][4]

There are normally two side judges on the bench, but the court may proceed with only one side judge or none. In theory the side judges, who are generally not attorneys, have input only on matters of fact, with matters of law left to the presiding judge, but the vote of a side judge has the same weight as that of the judge, so two side judges can outvote the judge. If there is only one side judge and the side judge and the judge disagree on a matter of fact, a mistrial is declared.[5] Side judges who undergo some training may also sit alone in small claims, uncontested divorces, traffic offenses, and violations of municipal ordinances.[6]

Side judges have administrative duties in addition to court responsibilities. They appoint the County Clerk, Treasurer and Auditor, Road Commissioners, and Notaries Public, manage the county courthouse, sheriff's office and other property, and prepare the county budget.[7] As a result, side judges receive two types of compensation: a salary for their administrative duties, paid by the county, and a per diem for their judicial duties, paid by the state.[8]

Once the county budget has been determined, municipalities in the county are assessed a portion, based on their grand list (total evaluation of property in the municipality).[9]

Vermont's Assistant Judges also have a professional association and lobbying group, the Vermont Association of County Judges.[10]

Current side judges

(As of August 2017)[11][12]

List of Current side judges

Addison County


Bennington County


  • James H. Colvin, Democratic
  • Wesley Mook, Democratic

Caledonia County

St. Johnsbury

  • Roy C. Vance, Republican
  • John S. Hall, Republican/Democratic

Chittenden County


  • Charles Delaney, Democratic
  • Connie C. Ramsey, Democratic

Essex County


  • Allen Hodgton, Republican
  • Calvin Colby, Republican

Franklin County

St. Albans

  • Kelly Gosselin, Republican
  • Robert "Bob" Johnson, Republican

Grand Isle

North Hero, Vermont

  • Sherri Potvin, Democratic
  • Joanne R. Batchelder, Republican

Lamoille County

Hyde Park

  • Karen Bradley, Republican
  • Joel W. Page, Democratic

Orange County


  • Victoria Weiss, Democratic
  • Joyce McKeeman, Democratic

Orleans County


  • Benjamin M. Batchelder, Republican
  • Curtis A. Hardy, Republican

Rutland County


  • David Lewis, Republican
  • Jean Coloutti, Republican

Washington County


  • Miriam "Muffy" Conlon, Democratic
  • Otto Trautz, (appointed to fill vacancy)[15]

Windham County


  • Patricia W. Duff, Democratic
  • Lamont Barnett (appointed to fill vacancy)[16]

Windsor County


  • Jack W. Anderson, Democratic
  • Ellen Terie, Democratic


The position of side judge was part of Vermont's government during the mid to late 1700s period of the Vermont Republic, and was continued in the Vermont Constitution when Vermont was admitted to the Union as the fourteenth state in 1791.[17][18]

The idea of side judges appear to have been borrowed from the colony of Pennsylvania, and they were also part of the judiciary in other states, including New Hampshire and Connecticut.[19][20][21] In Vermont, they were created in part because early Vermont residents were distrustful of lawyers, many of whom had received their training in England before the American Revolution, making their loyalty suspect, or had supported New York during the dispute between New York's colonial government and Vermont's original white settlers over control of Vermont's first towns. The founders of Vermont had purchased their land grants from Benning Wentworth, the Governor of New Hampshire. When the British government supported New York's attempts to assert control, those with New Hampshire land grants refused to re-purchase them from New York. Adding lay judges to the courts was a means of ensuring that pro-British or pro-New York judges could not control the courts.[22][23]

Though reorganization of the judiciary in other states eliminated the side judge position, It has continued in Vermont. Some updates and changes to Vermont's court system included elimination or a reduced role for the side judges, but most of those efforts have been unsuccessful.[24][25]

Notable side judges

See also


  1. Vermont Superior Court, In re Assistant Judge Calvin Colby Archived 2015-01-12 at the Wayback Machine, December 14, 2009
  2. Domenic Poli, Brattleboro Reformer, Gov. Appoints Barnett as Windham County Side Judge, August 11, 2012
  3. State of Vermont Judiciary, Vermont Superior Court: Civil Division, retrieved January 16, 2014
  4. State of Vermont Judiciary, State of Vermont Judiciary: family Court, retrieved January 16, 2014
  5. Brattleboro Reformer, Disorder in the Courts, April 9, 2010
  6. Cornelia Cesari, Randolph Herald, ‘Side Judges’ Wear Two Hats Archived 2014-01-16 at the Wayback Machine, December 6, 2007
  7. State of Vermont, The Vermont Statutes Online, Title 24: Municipal and County Government, Chapter 5: County Officers; Powers and Duties, Sub-Chapter 1: Assistant Judges, retrieved January 17, 2014
  8. Mitch Wertlieb, Vermont Public Radio, Assistant Judges Against Proposal To Reduce Duties, January 7, 2010
  9. Gresser, Joseph (December 19, 2012). "Side judges see $50,000 bump in county budget". The Chronicle. Barton, Vermont. p. 16.
  10. Vermont Association of County Judges, Home Page: Vermont Association of County Judges Archived 2014-01-17 at the Wayback Machine, retrieved January 16, 2014
  11. "County Judges and Officers". Montpelier, VT: Vermont Association of County Judges. 2017.
  12. Vermont Election Division (2014). "2014 General Election Candidate Listing" (PDF). Montpelier, VT: Vermont Secretary of State.
  13. "Meeting notice, Addison County Budget" (PDF). Town of Middlebury. Addison County Assistant Judges. December 18, 2014. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-03. Retrieved May 21, 2015.
  14. "Some New Faces Join Bennington County Elected Officials". Rutland Herald. Rutland, VT. November 10, 2014.
  15. "Gov. Shumlin Appoints Trautz as Washington County Assistant Judge". VT Digger. Montpelier, VT. October 28, 2016.
  16. Birch, Harmony (July 7, 2017). "'A huge responsibility': Barnett steps down to take side judge job". Brattleboro, VT. Brattleboro, VT.
  17. Vermont Archives and records Administration, Vermont Constitution of 1777, Section XXVII Archived 2012-07-25 at the Wayback Machine, retrieved January 16, 2014
  18. Vermont Archives and records Administration, Vermont Constitution of 1793, Section 9th Archived 2014-02-20 at the Wayback Machine, retrieved January 14, 2014
  19. David W. Belisle, History of Independence Hall, 1859, page 172
  20. Franklin Ellis, Samuel Evans, History of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, 1883, page 226
  21. National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Pennsylvania, Register of Pennsylvania Society, 1907, page 227
  22. Vermont Bar Association, The Vermont Bar Journal & Law Digest, Volume 16, 1990, page 5
  23. Jerome Alan Cohen, The Criminal Process in the People's Republic of China, 1949-1963, Volume 2, 1968, page 434
  24. Jesse Roman, Stowe Today, Side Judges Fight Against Extinction: Efficiency Study Favors Eliminating the Elected Posts, July 10, 2013
  25. Caledonian Record, Judicial Plan Doesn't Cut Side Judges Archived 2014-01-17 at, November 16, 2009
  26. Biography of the Bar of Orleans County, Vermont, by Frederick W. Baldwin, 1886, pages 59 to 64
  27. "William Chamberlain". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved January 12, 2014.
  28. Hamilton Child, Gazetteer of Caledonia and Essex Counties, Vt. 1764–1887, 1887, page 38
  29. Vermont Legislative Directory, published by Vermont Secretary of State, 1919, page 511
  30. Vermont Secretary of State, Legislative Directory, 1923, page 410
  31. Vermont Secretary of State, Legislative Directory, 1921, page 452
  32. White, Pliny H. (1866). Jonas Galusha, the Fifth Governor of Vermont. Vermont Historical Society, publisher, E. P. Walton, printer. p. 10.
  33. "William Hunter". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved January 12, 2014.
  34. "Elias Keyes". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved January 12, 2014.
  35. National Life Insurance Company, National Life Insurance Company: A History of Its Foundation and Development 1850–1925, 1925, page 30
  36. Lewis Cass Aldrich, Frank R. Holmes, History of Windsor County, Vermont, 1891, pages 183–184
  37. Vermont Archives and Records Administration, Speakers of the Vermont House of Representatives, 1870–2009 Archived 2012-04-15 at the Wayback Machine, 2009, page 5
  38. Vermont General Assembly, Records of the Governor and Council of the State of Vermont, Volume III, 1875, pages 77–78
  39. Olin, Chauncey C. (1893). A Complete Record of the John Olin Family. Baker–Randolph Co. p. 27.
  40. Matt Bushnell Jones, History of the Town of Waitsfield, Vermont, 1782–1908, 1909, page 200
  41. William M. Pingry, Genealogical Record of the Descendants of Moses Pengry, 1881, page 46
  42. Vermont General Assembly, Journal of the Vermont State Senate, 1886, page 322
  43. H. P. Smith and W. S. Rann, History of Rutland County, Vermont, 1886, pages 142 to 143
  44. The American Journal of Education, edited by Henry Barnard, Volume 2, 1869, page 463
  45. "Senate: Appointments; Washington County". Rutland County Herald. Rutland, VT. October 27, 1840. p. 3.
  46. "Personal: Hon. John Spaulding has been commissioned by Gov. Dillingham as Assistant Judge of Washington Co. Court". Burlington Free Press. Burlington, VT. May 31, 1867. p. 2.
  47. Benjamin Homer Hall, History of Eastern Vermont, 1858, pages 698–699
  48. Jacob G. Ullery, Men of Vermont Illustrated, 1903, page 373
  49. LaFayette Wilbur, Early History of Vermont, Volume 2, 1900, page 390
  50. "John E. Weeks". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved 12 January 2014.
  51. Child, Hamilton (1887). Gazetteer of Caledonia and Essex Counties, Vt. 1764-1887. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse Journal Company. pp. 35–36.
  52. "Augustus Young". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved 12 January 2014.
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