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Court System Changes

posted Sep 2, 2010, 1:26 PM by Staff News & Citizen   [ updated Oct 20, 2010, 11:04 AM ]

by Mickey Smith

As part of an effort to save money, the Vermont court system has undergone historic, major administrative changes – notably restructuring and name changes to the criminal and civil courts.

Under new legislation, the former district, superior, family and environmental courts are now considered separate divisions under the newly-created unified Vermont Superior Court.  Probate Court, will become a division of the new court system on February 1, 2011.

County Clerk Kathleen Hobart, of Belvidere, has been appointed Superior Court Clerk for Lamoille County.  Her official appointment began Sunday, August 29.

As the Clerk of the Vermont Superior Court, Lamoille Unit, Hobart will manage the civil, family and criminal divisions of the redesigned court system. She will also manage the probate court division when that joins the system in February.

Her duties will include the hiring of operations managers to oversee the daily operations of the unit and to work collaboratively with the Presiding Judges (currently in Hyde Park that’s Judge Dennis Pearson) on issues pertaining to court. This includes issues dealing with case management, court programs, the use of the court facilities, the relationship with the local bar and community, and other issues related to the efficiency and effectiveness of all divisions of the county unit.

“I am extremely pleased to be appointed the Clerk of the newly unified Superior Court, Lamoille Unit,” said Hobart.

Hobart explained based largely on the recommendation of the Vermont Commission on Judicial Operation, the Legislature decided to reduce the number of middle management positions.  She said, as a result the number of court manager positions was reduced from 29 to 11 (exclusive of the Environmental Court and Judicial Bureau).

“The Judiciary is fortunate in having a wealth of talented, experienced and dedicated managers conducting the work of the courts, thus competition for these positions was keen, said Hobart. “It is an honor and a privilege to be a member of this core group of managers, and I am looking forward to working with my colleagues within the branch, our justice partners and public during this historic time.”

Hobart began her Vermont Judiciary career in 2001 when she was appointed Lamoille County Superior Court Clerk.  Prior to her appointment, she was Lamoille County Deputy State's Attorney from 1998 to 2001 and was a partner in the law firm of Fitzpatrick and Hobart from 1990 to 2000.

With the changes, the Lamoille Unit is reinstating the “Opening of the Term & Call of the Docket” on Wednesday, September 8, at 10 a.m.

Official notices have been sent to those required to attend because they have pending cases in the civil, criminal and family divisions, the ceremony is open to the public for anyone who would like to attend.  Along with introductions of the court staff, there will be an appropriate, neutral and primarily secular invocation. The Progress Calendar will then be called, including representative cases from each division, emphasizing each docket is now a working division of a single unified trial court. Counsel in each selected case will provide a brief update on the status of that case.

A brief “bench/bar” meeting will be held in the courtroom, which will offer a chance for the Presiding Judge, Dennis Pearson, to field questions about court system. A brief luncheon, hosted by Assistant Judges Karen Bradley and David Williams will follow, with the court returning to its regular schedule at 1 p.m.