Category Archives: Law

About that vacancy on the state supreme court

Last week, longtime Vermont Supreme Court Justice John Dooley announced he will retire at the end of his term, next March. There followed the predictable encomiums to his service and legal mind and his staunch liberalism, notably expressed in the 1999 civil unions decision.

You know the first thing that crossed my mind?

Who gets to fill the vacancy: Peter Shumlin or his successor?

Yeah, I immediately went to the politics. Vermont Political Observer through and through. The stakes aren’t nearly as high as for the U.S. Supreme Court, but there are definitely stakes. Presumably Phil Scott and Sue Minter would have different qualifications in mind if they got to name one of the Court’s five Justices.

I don’t know for sure; no one in the media has seen fit to inquire about the candidates’ judicial philosophy and their views of Vermont jurisprudence.

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Incoherent Rifle-Wielding Man, Blah Blah Blah

In a time when America is averaging more than one mass shooting per day*, the good people of Burlington just suffered through several weeks of a homeless man riding his bike around town with a rifle strapped to his back.

*FBI definition: four or more people shot in a single incident, not including the shooter. We’ve had 29 in July so far. 

Per Seven Days’ Mark Davis, police “found [Malcolm Tanner] to be ‘incoherent,’ and he insisted that laws do not apply to him.” But they did nothing about him because “he did not seem to be breaking any laws.”

Tra la la.

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It’s summertime, and racism is bustin’ out all over

Perhaps in honor of our nation’s birthday, there’s quite a bit of sobering news for those who believe that Vermont is above all this racism stuff because, well, we’re Vermont!

Actually, I’d compare us to Scandinavian countries before the first waves of darker-skinned immigrants. They didn’t have racism because there wasn’t any reason for it to spring forth. But you add in some brown people — or even the idea of adding in some brown people — and boy howdy, turns out your attic is full of spiders.

We have, of course, the ongoing disgrace in Rutland, where opponents of setting 100 Syrian refugees might go so far as to eject the best damn mayor their city has ever had. And don’t try to sell me that the anti-refugee contingent are upset over process. That’s an excuse. No, they’re afraid of dark-skinned people wearing heebie-jabbies.

Exhibits B and C are separate reports detailing “stark racial disparities in Vermont policing and incarceration,” per VTDigger; Exhibit D is a series of truly disturbing incidents of racism in, of all places, Craftsbury — the summer home of Bill “Spaceman” Lee and an epicenter of Northeast Kingdom counterculture.

And the cherry on top of this shit sundae: Governor Shumlin urging federal authorities not to harass or “hassle” members of the Rainbow Family Gathering. I wonder if he’d express the same sentiment if it was, say, a Hip-Hop Nation event at Mount Tabor.

Call me cynical, but I doubt it.

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The McAllister “trial” was a disgrace

Mad as Hell, boys and girls.

That’ll do for a start.

Today, the prosecution threw in the towel on the first of two cases against accused rapist Norm McAllister. And absolutely threw their star witness under the bus.

Disgraceful.

There is much more to say, but let’s start there. The accuser did not step forward of her own accord; the authorities encouraged her to do so, and actively solicited her testimony.

She was a reluctant witness from the start. Until the last moment, there were doubts about whether she would show up.

As it turned out, she shouldn’t have. She was subjected to hours of raw, hurtful questioning about every little detail of a series of intimate assaults. And what was her reward?

Less than 24 hours later, the prosecution threw up its hands and said, “Never mind.” Her compliance, her assistance, her exposure in the media, her dutiful effort to testify accuately to events that happened several years ago — all flushed down the toilet.

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Yes, Virginia, the rich are different

Poor Little Rich Man.

Poor Little Rich Man.

Break out the tiny violins. Hold an onion under your eyes and squeeze out a few tears for Ariel Quiros, alleged EB-5 fraudster. His assets have been frozen by a federal court, and he’s having trouble making ends meet. Probably eating cat food for dinner and shacking up under a freeway bridge.

He’s claiming poverty in a court filing discovered by VTDigger’s Anne Galloway. But it’s a very special definition of “poverty” that could only come from a man accustomed to great wealth.

Quiros claims he needs $100,000 a month for “so-called reasonable living expenses.” In addition, Quiros is seeking $300,000 [a month] for professional expenses related to his court case.

Yeah, a hundred G’s just doesn’t go very far these days. I wonder if he qualifies for food stamps.

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House conferees close the gambling back door

Sen. Kevin Mullin’s attempts to sneak pro-gambling language into a pair of unrelated bills has failed, thanks to the efforts of House conferees.

Mullin craps out.

Mullin craps out.

I first wrote about this last week; the day before yesterday, another Vermont media source finally decided to pursue the story. VPR’s Bob Kinzel had more detail than I did — although he focused on one of Mullin’s maneuvers and missed the other. Still, if you want more information, do read his piece.

To recap, Mullin slipped language into a consumer protection bill that laid out consumer protections for daily fantasy sports — an activity deemed by Eternal General Bill Sorrell to be illegal. Which seems contradictory: why regulate an illegal industry? (That’s the one Kinzel missed.) And into the big budget bill, he inserted language that would have allowed the Lottery Commission more leeway in placing electronic gaming machines in bars and restaurants — possibly including Keno and video poker.

The part I failed to catch was that the current gaming-machine pilot program is set to expire this summer. Mullin’s amendment would have removed the sunset and broadened the definition of acceptable machines. His amendment had the support of Lottery Director Greg Smith, who is under pressure to grow revenues.

Which, given the current EB-5 scandal, is kind of ironic. A central problem with EB-5 was that a single agency was tasked with regulating AND promoting the same activity. And here’s the Lottery Commission, regulating AND promoting the same activity. Conflict of interest, anyone?

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Welp, the mouse died.

Earlier this week, I wrote a post about the marijuana debate entitled “They labored mightily and brought forth a mouse.”

Turned out I was overly optimistic, because the mouse didn’t make it.

No legalization. No grow-your-own. And as for the House’s idea of a study commission (thx to Seven Days’ Terri Hallenbeck, who never would’ve gotten this into the Free Press):

“Fuck the commission,” a frustrated Senate Judiciary Committee chair Dick Sears (D-Bennington) said after his effort to create a public advisory vote failed. “The commission was unnecessary.”

Agreed. Especially since the commission would have apparently been funded with money diverted from opioid treatment. Sheesh.

The only good thing about this: the House’s brilliant idea of a new saliva test for buzzed driving also failed. That’s the test with no clear scientific basis, according to a state-sponsored study.

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