The Vermont Statutes Online
§ 1. Unified court system established
The Judiciary shall be a unified court system under the administrative control of the Supreme Court. It shall consist of an appellate division, which shall be the Supreme Court, and a trial division, which shall consist of a trial court of general jurisdiction to be known as the Superior Court, and a Judicial Bureau. (Amended 2009, No. 154 (Adj. Sess.), § 1.)
§ 2. Supreme Court established; jurisdiction
(a) The Supreme Court shall have exclusive jurisdiction of appeals from judgments, rulings, and orders of the Superior Court, administrative agencies, boards, commissions, and officers unless otherwise provided by law.
(b) The Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction, concurrent with the Superior Court, of proceedings in certiorari, mandamus, prohibition, and quo warranto and shall have jurisdiction to issue all writs, processes, and orders that may be necessary to the furtherance of justice and the regular execution of the law. (Amended 1971, No. 185 (Adj. Sess.), § 5, eff. March 29, 1972; 1973, No. 193 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. April 9, 1974; 2009, No. 154 (Adj. Sess.), § 2.)
§ 3. Judicial officers; administrative and disciplinary control
The Supreme Court shall have administrative and disciplinary control of all judicial officers of the State, in addition to and not inconsistent with the constitutional powers of the General Assembly in those matters. It shall adopt and promulgate a Code of Judicial Ethics which shall be binding on those officers for disciplinary purposes. It may issue rules and regulations providing for the exercise of disciplinary control, including providing for the manner of making and disposing of complaints of violations of judicial ethics, a committee of the Judiciary for determining issues raised by complaints, and imposing sanctions, including when appropriate suspension from judicial duties for the balance of the term of the judicial officer charged. (1965, No. 194, § 14.)
§ 4. Justices
(a) The Supreme Court shall consist of one Chief Justice and four Associate Justices, appointed in accordance with the Constitution and chapter 15 of this title or retained in office under subsection (c) of this section.
(b) When the Office of Chief Justice becomes vacant for any reason, the duties of that Office shall forthwith devolve upon the Justice with the longest period of service on the Supreme Court until the appointment of a Chief Justice in accordance with the Constitution.
(c) A Supreme Court Justice may file in the Office of the Secretary of State, on or before September 1 of the year preceding the expiration of the term for which he or she was appointed or retained, a declaration that he or she will be a candidate for retention. However, a Justice appointed and having taken the oath of office after September 1 of the year preceding the expiration of the term of office shall automatically be a candidate for retention without filing notice. When a Justice files such a declaration, his or her name shall be submitted to the General Assembly for a vote on retention. The General Assembly shall vote upon one ballot on the question "Shall the following Supreme Court Justices be retained in office?" The names of the Justices shall be followed by "Yes __ No __ ." If a majority of those voting on the question vote against retention, upon expiration of the term of office a vacancy shall exist which shall be filled by appointment in accordance with the Constitution and chapter 15 of this title; if the majority vote is in favor of retention, the Justice shall, unless removed for cause, remain in office for another term, and, at its end, shall be eligible for retention in office in the manner herein prescribed.
(d) The Court Administrator shall notify the Secretary of State whenever a Justice is appointed and takes the oath of office after September 1 of the year preceding the expiration of the term of office to which the Justice has succeeded thereby resulting in automatic notification of an intention to continue in office. Whenever a Justice files a declaration under subsection (c) of this section, or notification occurs automatically, the Secretary of State shall notify the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House, the Office of Legislative Counsel, and the Office of Legislative Operations forthwith. (Amended 1967, No. 306 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; 1969, No. 125, § 8; 1975, No. 204 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; 1981, No. 3, § 1; 1985, No. 98, § 1; 2019, No. 144 (Adj. Sess.), § 21.)
§ 5. Term of Justices
(a) The term of the Justices, except in case of an appointment to fill a vacancy, shall be for a term of six years from and including April 1 in the year of such appointment or retention under subsection 4(c) of this title. When a Justice of the Supreme Court, who has sat at the hearing of a cause, retires from office before such cause is decided, the Justice shall remain a member of such Court for the purpose of assisting in the decision thereof and of signing the entry order, provided that such service may extend only to the following term of Court. For such service the Justice shall receive a reasonable compensation to be fixed by the Justices of such Court and reasonable expenses while on office business.
(b) A justice shall remain in office until a successor is appointed and qualified, unless sooner removed for cause or unless he resigns. (Amended 1975, No. 204 (Adj. Sess.), § 2; 1985, No. 98, § 2.)
§ 6. Disqualification of Justices
A Justice of the Supreme Court shall not be an officer in a railroad, banking, or insurance corporation in this State.
§ 7. Repealed. 1979, No. 181 (Adj. Sess.), § 22.
§ 8. General and special terms
The terms of the Supreme Court and times and places of those terms shall be stated by administrative order of the Supreme Court. The Court Administrator shall act as Clerk of the Supreme Court. (Amended 1963, No. 15, § 1; 1967, No. 174, § 1; 1979, No. 181 (Adj. Sess.), § 2.)
§§ 9-12. Repealed. 1977, No. 235 (Adj. Sess.), § 10.
§§ 13-15. Repealed. 1971, No. 185 (Adj. Sess.), § 237, eff. March 29, 1972.
§ 16. Repealed. 2021, No. 53, § 8 and 2021, No. 66, § 7, effective June 7, 2021.
§ 17. Reporter of decisions; appointment
The Justices of the Supreme Court shall in each even year appoint a reporter of the decisions of the Court and may fill a vacancy in such office.
§ 18. Opinions; filing and preservation; copies
(a) Each opinion of the Supreme Court shall be signed by one or more of the Justices and filed with the reporter of decisions.
(b) When a volume of the Vermont Reports has been published, the reporter shall transmit for preservation the original opinions in the cases printed therein to the clerk of the general term.
(c) On tender of the fees therefor, the reporter or clerk shall furnish a certified copy of any opinion to any person applying for the same.
(d) The reporter shall forthwith furnish the Commissioner of Labor, free of charge, copies of all opinions filed involving the administration of the labor laws of the State. (Amended 1971, No. 185 (Adj. Sess.), § 8, eff. March 29, 1972; 2005, No. 103 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. April 5, 2006.)
§ 19. Repealed. 1977, No. 235 (Adj. Sess.), § 10.
§ 20. Reports of decisions
The reporter shall annually prepare the decisions of the Court for publication, read the proof, and superintend the printing and binding thereof. All causes decided shall be reported within one year after the decisions are made.
§ 21. Court Administrator
The Office of Court Administrator is hereby created. He or she shall be appointed by and serve at the pleasure of the Supreme Court which shall fix his or her salary and prescribe his or her duties from time to time. He or she shall devote full time to his or her official duties to the exclusion of engagement in any other business or profession for profit. (Added 1967, No. 174, § 2.)
§ 21a. Duties of the Administrative Judge
(a) The Administrative Judge shall assign and specially assign Superior judges, including himself or herself, and Environmental judges to the Superior Court. All Superior judges except Environmental judges shall be subject to the requirements of rotation as ordered by the Supreme Court. Assignments made pursuant to the rotation schedule shall be subject to the approval of the Supreme Court.
(b) In making any assignment under this section, the Administrative Judge shall give consideration to the experience, temperament, and training of a judge and the needs of the court. In making an assignment to the Environmental Division, the Administrative Judge shall give consideration to experience and expertise in environmental and land use law and shall assign or specially assign judges in a manner to provide appropriate attention to all geographic areas of the State.
(c) In making any assignments to the Environmental Division under this section, the Administrative Judge shall regularly assign two judges, at least one of whom shall be an Environmental judge. An Environmental judge may be assigned to other divisions in the Superior Court for a period of time not exceeding two years. When assigned to other divisions in the Superior Court, the Environmental judge shall have all the powers and responsibilities of a Superior judge. (Added 1989, No. 221 (Adj. Sess.), § 2, eff. Oct. 1, 1990; amended 1993, No. 232 (Adj. Sess.), § 40; 1995, No. 181 (Adj. Sess.), § 20; 1999, No. 148 (Adj. Sess.), § 71, eff. May 24, 2000; 2001, No. 149 (Adj. Sess.), § 71, eff. June 27, 2002; 2003, No. 115 (Adj. Sess.), § 7, eff. Jan. 31, 2005; 2009, No. 154 (Adj. Sess.), § 3.)
§ 22. Designation and special assignment of judicial officers and retired judicial officers
(a)(1) The Chief Justice may appoint and assign a retired Justice or judge with his or her consent or a Superior or Probate judge to a special assignment on the Supreme Court. The Chief Justice may appoint, and the Administrative Judge shall assign, an active or retired Justice or a retired judge, with his or her consent, to any special assignment in the Superior Court or the Judicial Bureau.
(2) The Administrative Judge may appoint and assign a judge to any special assignment in the Superior Court. As used in this subdivision, a judge shall include a Superior judge, a Probate judge, a Family Division magistrate, or a judicial hearing officer.
(b) The Administrative Judge may appoint and assign a member of the Vermont Bar residing within the State of Vermont to serve temporarily as:
(1) an acting judge in Superior Court;
(2) an acting magistrate;
(3) an acting Probate judge; or
(4) an acting hearing officer to hear cases in the Judicial Bureau.
(c) Special assignments may be made as a result of the disqualification, disability, or death of a Justice or judge, or because of the vacancy of a judicial office, or because the business of the court requires. When so designated and assigned and in the actual performance of those judicial duties, an appointee shall have all the powers and authority of the assigned judicial office, but not otherwise and shall retain them until the duties devolving upon him or her are fully performed. A designated and assigned Justice or judge or acting judge shall not be counted in the number of Justices or judges provided by law.
(e) The Supreme Court shall develop and provide whatever judicial training it deems necessary to enable persons who are specially assigned under this section to carry out their assigned judicial duties.
(f) In making an appointment under subsection (b) of this section, the Administrative Judge shall apply the criteria and standards for judicial appointments contained in section 601 of this title. (Added 1973, No. 268 (Adj. Sess.), § 1, eff. April 1, 1974; amended 1977, No. 235 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; 1979, No. 181 (Adj. Sess.), § 3; 1995, No. 59, § 1; 1995, No. 181 (Adj. Sess.), § 18; 1997, No. 5, §§ 1, 2, eff. April 8, 1997; 1997, No. 121 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; 2001, No. 149 (Adj. Sess.), § 72, eff. June 27, 2002; 2003, No. 115 (Adj. Sess.), § 8, eff. Jan. 31, 2005; 2005, No. 167 (Adj. Sess.), § 9, eff. May 20, 2006; 2009, No. 154 (Adj. Sess.), § 4; 2013, No. 170 (Adj. Sess.), § 4, eff. Sept. 1, 2014.)
§ 23. Compensation
In the performance of judicial duties, the specially assigned judicial officer shall be entitled to a per diem equal to the daily compensation authorized for the judicial position to which he or she is assigned and necessary expenses. An acting judge in Criminal Division of the Superior Court shall receive $75.00 a day and necessary expenses. Payment of compensation for special judicial assignments shall not diminish the retirement compensation of retired judicial officers. However, a retired judicial officer shall not receive total annual compensation in excess of the annual salary of a Superior Judge. Active judicial officers shall receive the compensation of their regular judicial office or that of the office to which they are specially assigned, whichever is greater. (Added 1973, No. 268 (Adj. Sess.), § 2, eff. April 1, 1974; amended 1977, No. 235 (Adj. Sess.), § 2; 1979, No. 181 (Adj. Sess.), § 4; 2009, No. 154, § 238.)
§ 24. Repealed. 2009, No. 154 (Adj. Sess.), § 238.
§ 25. Judicial Branch; furlough days; administrative leave
(a) The Supreme Court is authorized to declare up to 12 unpaid Judicial Branch furlough days in a fiscal year and on those days may close the courts in the State. For purposes of implementing a furlough day, the Supreme Court is authorized to reduce on a daily or hourly basis all salaries established by 32 V.S.A. §§ 1003(c), 1141, and 1142, and all other salaries paid by the Judicial Branch. Furlough days declared under this section shall have the same effect as holidays under 1 V.S.A. § 371 for the purpose of counting time under the Rules of Court Procedure and the Vermont Statutes Annotated.
(b) The Supreme Court is authorized to pay on an hourly basis all persons whose compensation is established by 32 V.S.A. §§ 1010, 1511, and 1551 and 4 V.S.A. §§ 23, 75, and 356.
(c) The Supreme Court may allow Supreme Court Justices, Superior judges, Environmental judges, magistrates, hearing officers, Probate judges, Superior Court clerks, or any State-compensated employees of the Judicial Branch not covered by a collective bargaining agreement to take an administrative leave of absence without pay, or with pay if the person is called to active duty in support of an extended national or State military operation. These judicial officers and State employees shall be entitled to be compensated in the same manner as Judicial Branch employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement called to active duty. The Court Administrator, at the direction of the Supreme Court, shall include provisions in the personnel rules of the Judiciary to administer these leaves of absence. (Added 1991, No. 50, § 97a; amended 1991, No. 189 (Adj. Sess.), § 7; 2003, No. 66, § 114a; 2003, No. 122 (Adj. Sess.), §§ 99a, 100; 2005, No. 66, § 4; 2009, No. 1 (Sp. Sess.), § E.204.1, eff. June 2, 2009; 2009, No. 154 (Adj. Sess.), § 5.)
§ 26. Half-time judges
Of the Superior judge positions authorized by this title, up to two may be shared, each by two half-time judges. Of the magistrate positions authorized by this title, one may be shared by two half-time magistrates. Of the hearing officer positions authorized by this title, one may be shared by two half-time hearing officers. Half-time Superior judges, magistrates, and hearing officers shall be paid proportionally and shall receive the same benefits as State employees who share a job. Half-time Superior judges, magistrates, and hearing officers shall not engage in the active practice of law for remuneration. (Added 1995, No. 181 (Adj. Sess.), § 17; amended 1997, No. 121 (Adj. Sess.), § 36; 1999, No. 58, § 1; 2009, No. 154 (Adj. Sess.), § 6.)
§ 27. Court Technology Special Fund
There is established the Court Technology Special Fund which shall be managed in accordance with 32 V.S.A. chapter 7, subchapter 5. Administrative fees collected pursuant to 13 V.S.A. § 7252 and revenue collected pursuant to fees established pursuant to sections 1105 and 1109 of this title shall be deposited and credited to this Fund. The Fund shall be available to the Judicial Branch to pay for contractual and operating expenses and project-related staffing not covered by the General Fund related to the following:
(1) The acquisition and maintenance of software and hardware needed for case management, electronic filing, an electronic document management system, and the expense of implementation, including training.
(2) The acquisition and maintenance of electronic audio and video court recording and conferencing equipment.
(3) The acquisition, maintenance, and support of the Judiciary's information technology network, including training. (Added 2007, No. 65, § 61; amended 2007, No. 192 (Adj. Sess.), § 6.026.)
§ 27a. Contracts for Internet service
Every contract to provide broadband Internet access service, as defined in 3 V.S.A. § 348(d)(1), for the Judicial Branch shall include terms and conditions requiring that the Internet service provider certify that it is in compliance with the consumer protection and net neutrality standards established in 3 V.S.A. § 348. (Added 2017, No. 169 (Adj. Sess.), § 6.)
§ 27b. Electronically filed verified documents
(a) A registered electronic filer in the Judiciary's electronic document filing system may file any document that would otherwise require the approval or verification of a notary by filing the document with the following language inserted above the signature and date:
"I declare that the above statement is true and accurate to the best of my knowledge and belief. I understand that if the above statement is false, I will be subject to the penalty of perjury."
(b) A document filed pursuant to subsection (a) of this section shall not require the approval or verification of a notary.
(c) This section shall not apply to an affidavit in support of a search warrant application or to an application for a nontestimonial identification order. (Added 2019, No. 77, § 4, eff. June 19, 2019.)
§ 28. Municipal Ticket Repayment Revolving Fund
(a) The Municipal Ticket Repayment Revolving Fund is created for the purpose of facilitating the transfer of incorrectly deposited Judicial Bureau payments to the appropriate municipality. A municipality may request a loan from the Municipal Ticket Repayment Revolving Fund in the amount owed another municipality if the municipality requesting the loan:
(1) received payments from the Judicial Bureau that were actually owed to the other municipality for penalties collected by the Judicial Bureau for violations of an ordinance within the other municipality; and
(2) received such payments from the Judicial Bureau between June 30, 2004 and June 30, 2007.
(b) The Court Administrator shall have the authority to approve all loans from the Municipal Ticket Repayment Revolving Fund. To request a loan from the Fund, a municipality shall file an application on a form approved by the Court Administrator by July 1, 2008. The application shall contain the following information:
(1) an agreement, signed by both municipalities, defining the amount owed by one municipality to the other; and
(2) a plan for the municipality requesting the loan to repay the Fund by July 1, 2013. The plan may authorize the Court Administrator to withhold Judicial Bureau violation payments to the municipality requesting the loan for deposit into the Fund.
(c) The maximum loan balance at any time shall be $250,000.00 for one municipality and $400,000.00 for all municipalities. The Court Administrator shall administer the Municipal Ticket Repayment Revolving Fund and shall establish procedures to allocate the available funds fairly and equitably. Upon the recommendation of the Court Administrator, the Secretary of Administration shall approve spending in anticipation of receipts from the Fund up to a maximum of $220,000.00.
(d) Nothing in this section shall prohibit the sending or receiving municipality from otherwise agreeing on, or bringing a civil action to resolve, overpayment issues prior to June 30, 2004.
(e) Upon completion of the agreements authorized by this section, the remaining balance in the Fund shall be deposited in the Court Technology Special Fund pursuant to section 27 of this title. (Added 2007, No. 51, § 16; amended 2007, No. 90 (Adj. Sess.), § 83, eff. March 6, 2008; 2013, No. 50, § E.204.)
§ 30. Superior Court
(a)(1) A Superior Court having statewide jurisdiction is created. The Superior Court shall have the following divisions:
(A) A Civil Division, which shall be a court of record and have jurisdiction over the matters described in section 31 of this title. The Vermont Rules of Civil Procedure shall apply in the Civil Division.
(B) A Criminal Division, which shall be a court of record and have jurisdiction over the matters described in section 32 of this title. The Vermont Rules of Criminal Procedure shall apply to criminal matters in the Criminal Division, and the Vermont Rules of Civil Procedure shall apply to civil matters in the Criminal Division.
(C) A Family Division, which shall be a court of record and have jurisdiction over the matters described in section 33 of this title. The Vermont Rules of Family Procedure shall apply in the Family Division.
(D) An Environmental Division, which shall be a court of record and have jurisdiction over the matters described in section 34 of this title. The Vermont Rules for Environmental Proceedings shall apply in the Environmental Division.
(E) A Probate Division, which shall have jurisdiction over the matters described in section 35 of this title. The Vermont Rules of Probate Procedure shall apply in the Probate Division.
(2) The Supreme Court shall promulgate rules, subject to review by the Legislative Committee on Judicial Rules under 12 V.S.A. chapter 1, which establish criteria for the transfer of cases between divisions.
(b) The Supreme Court shall by rule divide the Superior Court into 14 geographical units which shall follow county lines, except that, subject to the venue requirements of subsection 1001(e) of this title, the Environmental Division shall be a court of statewide jurisdiction and shall not be otherwise divided into geographical units. The Superior Court shall be held in each unit of the State.
(c) Terms of the Superior Court shall be stated by administrative orders of the Supreme Court. The Court Administrator shall provide appropriate security services for each court in the State. (Added 2009, No. 154 (Adj. Sess.), §§ 7, 7a.)
§ 31. Jurisdiction; Civil Division
The Civil Division shall have:
(1) original and exclusive jurisdiction of all original civil actions, except as otherwise provided in sections 2, 32, 33, 34, 35, and 1102 of this title;
(2) appellate jurisdiction of causes, civil and criminal, appealable to the court;
(3) original jurisdiction, concurrent with the Supreme Court, of proceedings in certiorari, mandamus, prohibition, and quo warranto;
(4) exclusive jurisdiction to hear and dispose of any requests to modify or enforce orders in civil cases previously issued by the Superior or District Court other than orders relating to those actions listed in sections 437 and 454 of this title; and
(5) jurisdiction to hear and dispose of any other matter brought before the court pursuant to law that is not subject to the jurisdiction of another division. (Added 2009, No. 154 (Adj. Sess.), § 7b; amended 2013, No. 34, § 1.)
§ 32. Jurisdiction; Criminal Division
(a) The Criminal Division shall have jurisdiction to try, render judgment, and pass sentence in prosecutions for felonies and misdemeanors.
(b) The Criminal Division shall have jurisdiction to try and finally determine prosecutions for violations of bylaws or ordinances of a village, town, or city, except as otherwise provided.
(c) The Criminal Division shall have jurisdiction of the following civil actions:
(1) appeals of final decisions of the Judicial Bureau;
(2) DUI license suspension hearings filed pursuant to 23 V.S.A. chapter 24;
(3) extradition proceedings filed pursuant to 13 V.S.A. chapter 159;
(4) drug forfeiture proceedings under 18 V.S.A. chapter 84, subchapter 2;
(5) fish and wildlife forfeiture proceedings under 10 V.S.A. chapter 109;
(6) liquor forfeiture proceedings under 7 V.S.A. chapter 19;
(7) hearings relating to refusal to provide a DNA sample pursuant to 20 V.S.A. § 1935;
(8) automobile forfeiture and immobilization proceedings under 23 V.S.A. chapters 9 and 13;
(9) sex offender proceedings pursuant to 13 V.S.A. §§ 5411(e) and 5411d(f);
(10) restitution modification proceedings pursuant to 13 V.S.A. § 7043(k);
(11) municipal parking violation proceedings pursuant to 24 V.S.A. § 1974a(e), if the municipality has established an administrative procedure enabling a person to contest the violation, and the person has exhausted the administrative procedure;
(12) proceedings to enforce 9 V.S.A. chapter 74, relating to energy efficiency standards for appliances and equipment;
(13) proceedings to enforce 30 V.S.A. § 53, relating to commercial building energy standards. (Added 2009, No. 154 (Adj. Sess.), § 7c.)
§ 33. Jurisdiction; Family Division
(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, the Family Division shall have exclusive jurisdiction to hear and dispose of the following proceedings filed or pending on or after October 1, 1990:
(1) All desertion and support proceedings and all parentage actions filed pursuant to 15 V.S.A. chapter 5.
(2) All rights of married women proceedings filed pursuant to 15 V.S.A. chapter 3.
(3) All enforcement of support proceedings filed pursuant to Title 15B.
(4) All annulment and divorce proceedings filed pursuant to 15 V.S.A. chapter 11.
(5) All parent and child proceedings filed pursuant to 15 V.S.A. chapter 15.
(6) Grandparents' visitation proceedings filed pursuant to 15 V.S.A. chapter 18.
(7) All uniform child custody proceedings filed pursuant to 15 V.S.A. chapter 20.
(8) All juvenile proceedings filed pursuant to 33 V.S.A. chapters 51, 52, and 53, including proceedings involving "youthful offenders" pursuant to 33 V.S.A. § 5281 whether the matter originated in the Criminal or Family Division of the Superior Court, except for a proceeding charging the holder of a commercial driver's license as defined in 23 V.S.A. § 4103 with an offense or violation listed in 23 V.S.A. § 4116 that would result in the license holder being disqualified from driving a commercial motor vehicle if convicted.
(9) All enforcement of support proceedings filed pursuant to 33 V.S.A. chapter 39.
(10) All guardianship services proceedings for persons with developmental disabilities filed pursuant to 18 V.S.A. chapter 215.
(11) All mental health proceedings filed pursuant to 18 V.S.A. chapters 179, 181, and 185.
(12) All involuntary sterilization proceedings filed pursuant to 18 V.S.A. chapter 204.
(13) All care for persons with intellectual disabilities proceedings filed pursuant to 18 V.S.A. chapter 206.
(14) All abuse prevention proceedings filed pursuant to 15 V.S.A. chapter 21. Any Superior judge may issue orders for emergency relief pursuant to 15 V.S.A. § 1104.
(15) All abuse and exploitation proceedings filed pursuant to 33 V.S.A. chapter 69, subchapter 2.
(16) All proceedings relating to the dissolution of a civil union.
(17) All requests to modify or enforce orders previously issued by the District or Superior Court relating to any of the proceedings identified in subdivisions (1)-(16) of this subsection.
(18) Concurrent with the Probate Division, special immigration judicial determinations regarding the custody and care of children within the meaning of the federal Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(27)(J) and 8 C.F.R. § 204.11) issued pursuant to 14 V.S.A. chapter 111, subchapter 14.
(b) The Family Division has jurisdiction to hear and dispose of proceedings involving misdemeanor motor vehicle offenses filed or pending on or after July 1, 2016, pursuant to 33 V.S.A. §§ 5201, 5203, and 5280. The Family Division of the Superior Court shall forward a record of any conviction for violation of a law related to motor vehicle traffic control, other than a parking violation, to the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles pursuant to 23 V.S.A. § 1709. (Added 2009, No. 154 (Adj. Sess.), § 7d; amended 2011, No. 29, § 2; 2013, No. 96 (Adj. Sess.), § 11; 2015, No. 153 (Adj. Sess.), § 19; 2019, No. 167 (Adj. Sess.), § 27, eff. Oct. 7, 2020; 2021, No. 65, § 13, eff. June 7, 2021.)
§ 34. Jurisdiction; Environmental Division
The Environmental Division shall have:
(1) jurisdiction of matters arising under 10 V.S.A. chapters 201 and 220;
(2) jurisdiction of matters arising under 24 V.S.A. chapter 61, subchapter 12 and chapter 117; and
(3) original jurisdiction to revoke permits under 10 V.S.A. chapter 151. (Added 2009, No. 154 (Adj. Sess.), § 7e.)
§ 35. Jurisdiction; Probate Division
The Probate Division shall have jurisdiction of:
(1) the probate of wills;
(2) the settlement of estates;
(3) the administration of trusts pursuant to Title 14A;
(4) trusts of absent persons' estates;
(5) charitable, cemetery, and philanthropic trusts;
(6) the appointment of guardians, and of the powers, duties, and rights of guardians and wards;
(7) proceedings concerning 18 V.S.A. chapter 231;
(8) accountings of attorneys-in-fact where no guardian has been appointed and the agent has reason to believe the principal is incompetent;
(9) adoptions and relinquishment for adoption;
(10) uniform gifts to minors;
(11) changes of name;
(12) issuance of new birth certificates and amendment of birth certificates;
(13) correction or amendment of civil marriage certificates and death certificates;
(14) emergency waiver of premarital medical certificates;
(15) proceedings relating to cemetery lots;
(16) trusts relating to community mausoleums or columbaria;
(17) civil actions brought under 18 V.S.A. chapter 107, subchapter 3, relating to disposition of remains;
(18) proceedings relating to the conveyance of a homestead interest of a spouse under a legal disability;
(19) the issuance of declaratory judgments;
(20) issuance of certificates of public good authorizing the civil marriage of persons under 16 years of age;
(21) appointment of administrators to discharge mortgages held by deceased mortgagees;
(22) appointment of trustees for persons confined under sentences of imprisonment;
(23) fixation of compensation and expenses of boards of arbitrators of death taxes of Vermont domiciliaries;
(24) emancipation of minors proceedings filed pursuant to 12 V.S.A. chapter 217;
(25) grandparent visitation proceedings under 15 V.S.A. chapter 18;
(26) other matters as provided by law; and
(27) concurrent with the Family Division, special immigration judicial determinations regarding the custody and care of children within the meaning of the federal Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(27)(J) and 8 C.F.R. § 204.11) issued pursuant to 14 V.S.A. chapter 111, subchapter 14. (Added 2009, No. 154 (Adj. Sess.), § 7f, eff. Feb. 1, 2011; amended 2019, No. 167 (Adj. Sess.), § 28, eff. Oct. 7, 2020.)
§ 36. Composition of the court
(a) Unless otherwise specified by law, when in session, a Superior Court shall consist of:
(1) For cases in the Civil or Family Division, one presiding Superior judge and two assistant judges, if available.
(2)(A) For cases in the Family Division, except as provided in subdivision (B) of this subdivision (2), one presiding judicial officer and two assistant judges, if available.
(B) The Family Division shall consist of one presiding judicial officer sitting alone in the following proceedings:
(i) all juvenile proceedings filed pursuant to 33 V.S.A. chapters 51, 52, and 53, including proceedings involving "youthful offenders" pursuant to 33 V.S.A. § 5281, whether the matter originated in the Criminal or Family Division of the Superior Court;
(ii) all guardianship services proceedings for persons with developmental disabilities filed pursuant to 18 V.S.A. chapter 215;
(iii) all mental health proceedings filed pursuant to 18 V.S.A. chapters 179, 181, and 185;
(iv) all involuntary sterilization proceedings filed pursuant to 18 V.S.A. chapter 204;
(v) all care for persons with intellectual disabilities proceedings filed pursuant to 18 V.S.A. chapter 206; and
(vi) all proceedings specifically within the jurisdiction of the office of magistrate except child support contempt proceedings held pursuant to a magistrate's jurisdiction under subdivision 461(a)(1) of this title.
(C) Use of the term "judicial officer" in subdivisions (A) and (B) of this subdivision (2) shall not be construed to expand a judicial officer's subject matter jurisdiction or conflict with the authority of the Chief Justice or Administrative Judge to make special assignments pursuant to section 22 of this title.
(3) For cases in the Criminal Division, one Superior judge sitting alone.
(4) For cases in the Probate Division, one Probate judge sitting alone.
(5) For cases in the Environmental Division, one Environmental judge sitting alone.
(b) Questions of law and fact. In all proceedings, questions of law shall be decided by the presiding judge. In cases not tried before a jury, questions of fact shall be decided by the court. Mixed questions of law and fact shall be deemed to be questions of law. The presiding judge alone shall decide which are questions of law, questions of fact, and mixed questions of law and fact. Written or oral stipulations of fact submitted by the parties shall establish the facts related therein, except that the presiding judge, in his or her discretion, may order a hearing on any such stipulated fact. Neither the decision of the presiding judge under this subsection nor participation by an assistant judge in a ruling of law shall be grounds for reversal unless a party makes a timely objection and raises the issue on appeal.
(c) Availability of assistant judges. If two assistant judges are not available, the court shall consist of one presiding judge and one assistant judge. In the event that court is being held by the presiding judge and one assistant judge and they do not agree on a decision, a mistrial shall be declared. If neither assistant judge is available, the court shall consist of the presiding judge alone, and the unavailability of an assistant judge shall not constitute reversible error.
(d) Method of determining availability. Before commencing a hearing in any matter in which the court by law may consist of the presiding judge and assistant judges, the assistant judges physically present in the courthouse shall determine whether they are available for the case. If two or more cases are being heard at one time and assistant judges may by law participate in either, each assistant judge may determine in which case he or she will participate.
(e) Duty to complete hearing or trial. After an assistant judge has decided to participate in a hearing or trial, he or she shall not withdraw therefrom except for cause. However, if the assistant judge is not available for a scheduled hearing or trial or becomes unavailable during trial, the matter may continue without his or her participation, and he or she may not return to participate.
(f) Emergency relief. A presiding judge may hear a petition for emergency relief when the court is not sitting and may issue temporary orders as necessary.
(g) Jury trial. In order to preserve the right to trial by jury, when issues sounding in law and in equity are presented in the same action, the Supreme Court shall provide by rule for trial by jury, when demanded, of issues sounding in law. (Added 2009, No. 154 (Adj. Sess.), § 8; amended 2013, No. 96 (Adj. Sess.), § 12; 2013, No. 185 (Adj. Sess.), § 1, eff. June 11, 2014.)
§ 37. Venue
(a) The venue for all actions filed in the Superior Court, whether heard in the Civil, Criminal, Family, Environmental, or Probate Division, shall be as provided in law.
(b) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Supreme Court may promulgate venue rules, subject to review by the Legislative Committee on Judicial Rules under 12 V.S.A. chapter 1, which are consistent with the following policies:
(1) Proceedings involving a case shall be heard in the unit in which the case was brought, subject to the following exceptions:
(A) when the parties have agreed otherwise;
(B) status conferences, minor hearings, or other nonevidentiary proceedings; or
(C) when a change in venue is necessary to ensure access to justice for the parties or required for the fair and efficient administration of justice.
(2) The electronic filing of cases on a statewide basis should be facilitated, and the court is authorized to promulgate rules establishing an electronic case-filing system.
(3) The use of technology to ease travel burdens on citizens and the courts should be promoted. For example, venue requirements should be deemed satisfied for some court proceedings when a person, including a judge, makes an appearance via video technology, even if the judge is not physically present in the same location as the person making the appearance.
(4)(A) Subject to subdivision (B) of this subdivision (4), in proceedings involving the termination of parental rights, the Supreme Court is authorized to designate a region of no more than four counties in which the venue for specified types of cases in the region shall be the region as a whole, irrespective of the county in which the venue would lie for the case under the governing statute. A designation under this subdivision shall be made by rule and shall be reviewed by the Legislative Committee on Judicial Rules pursuant to 12 V.S.A. § 1.
(B) A region designated pursuant to subdivision (A) of this subdivision (4) shall not include Grand Isle or Essex County for purposes of permitting termination of parental rights proceedings originating in Grand Isle or Essex County to be heard in other counties or regions unless all parties consent. This subdivision shall not preclude termination of parental rights proceedings originating in other counties from being heard in Grand Isle or Essex County. (Added 2009, No. 154 (Adj. Sess.), § 9; amended 2015, No. 167 (Adj. Sess.), § 4, eff. June 6, 2016.)
[Section 38 repealed effective July 1, 2025.]
§ 38. Judicial Masters
(a) The Administrative Judge may appoint a licensed Vermont lawyer who has been engaged in the practice of law in Vermont for at least the last five years to serve as a Judicial Master. The Judicial Master shall be an employee of the Judiciary and be subject to the Code of Judicial Conduct. A Judicial Master shall not engage in the active practice of law for remuneration while serving in this position. In making this appointment, the Administrative Judge shall apply the criteria and standards for judicial appointments contained in section 601 of this title. The Judicial Master may hear and decide the following matters as designated by the Administrative Judge:
(1) In the Criminal Division of the Superior Court, proceedings in treatment court dockets, as approved by the presiding judge, to assure compliance with court orders, including attendance and participation with a treatment plan, imposition of sanctions and incentives, including incarceration in the course of the program and dismissal from the program due to noncompliance; the Master shall not have authority to accept pleas or to impose sentences, to hear motions to suppress, or to dismiss for lack of a prima facie case.
(2) In the Family Division of the Superior Court, in juvenile proceedings, as approved by the presiding judge, to assure compliance with existing court orders, including attendance and participation in substance abuse, mental health, and other court-ordered counseling; compliance with and modification of parent-child contact; to act as the administrative body to conduct permanency hearings pursuant to 33 V.S.A. § 5321(g) unless a contested permanency hearing becomes necessary; and to provide case management of juvenile proceedings; the Master shall not have the authority to hear temporary care hearings, requests for juvenile protective orders, or hearings on the merits, or to conduct disposition hearings.
(3) In the Family Division of the Superior Court, proceedings, with the approval of the presiding judge, to assure compliance with existing court orders relating to parent-child contact; to act as a Master pursuant to Rule 53 of the Vermont Rules of Civil Procedure where no order has been made pursuant to 32 V.S.A. § 1758(b); and to provide case management of proceedings with 15 V.S.A. chapters 5, 11, 15, and 18; the Master shall not have authority to determine divorce or parentage actions, parental rights and responsibilities, or spousal maintenance or modifications of such orders.
(b) The Judicial Master may be appointed to serve as an acting judge pursuant to subsection 22(b) of this title in any matter in which he or she has not previously acted as a Judicial Master.
(c) The decision of a Judicial Master under this section shall have the same effect as a decision of a Superior judge, except when acting as a Master pursuant to subdivision (a)(3) of this section. (Added 2015, No. 167 (Adj. Sess.), § 1, eff. June 6, 2016; repealed on July 1, 2025 by 2019, No. 77, § 25.)
§ 39. Capital budget requests; county courthouses
(a) On or before October 1 each year, any county requesting capital funds for its courthouse, or court operations, shall submit a request to the Court Administrator.
(b) The Court Administrator shall evaluate requests based on the following criteria:
(1) whether the funding request relates to an emergency that will affect the court operations and the administration of justice;
(2) whether there is a State-owned courthouse in the county that could absorb court activities in lieu of this capital investment;
(3) whether the county consistently has invested in major maintenance in the courthouse;
(4) whether the request relates to a State-mandated function;
(5) whether the request diverts resources of other current Judiciary capital priorities;
(6) whether the request is consistent with the long-term capital needs of the Judiciary, including providing court services adapted to modern needs and requirements; and
(7) any other criteria as deemed appropriate by the Court Administrator.
(c) Based on the criteria described in subsection (b) of this section, the Court Administrator shall make a recommendation to the Commissioner of Buildings and General Services regarding whether the county's request should be included as part of the Judiciary's request for capital funding in the Governor's annual proposed capital budget request.
(d) On or before January 15 of each year, the Court Administrator shall advise the House Committee on Corrections and Institutions and the Senate Committee on Institutions of all county requests received and the Court Administrator's recommendations for the proposed capital budget request. (Added 2015, No. 160 (Adj. Sess.), § 31.)
§ 40. Report on temporary employees
Annually, on or before January 15, the State Court Administrator shall submit a report to the House Committee on General, Housing, and Military Affairs and the House and Senate Committees on Government Operations identifying for each of the two prior calendar years:
(1) the total number of individuals employed by the Judiciary Department on a temporary basis who have worked in excess of 1,280 hours in the prior calendar year, excluding employees identified in 3 V.S.A. § 1011(7), (8)(A)-(D), (8)(F)-(G), and (8)(I)-(K);
(2) the total number of temporary positions in which one or more individuals have been employed for a combined total of more than 1,280 hours, excluding positions filled by employees identified in 3 V.S.A. § 1011(7), (8)(A)-(D), (8)(F)-(G), and (8)(I)-(K);
(3) the total number of hours worked by each temporary employee identified pursuant to subdivision (1) of this subsection; and
(4) the total number of years during which each temporary employee identified pursuant to subdivision (1) of this subsection has worked for the Judiciary Department. (Added 2019, No. 58, § 6.)