The Great SCOV Quiz—Part I.

SCOV Law is once again pleased to present the work of Paul Gillies, Vermont lawyer and historian.  Paul has recently begun work on his big project: A History of the Vermont Supreme Court.  To kick off this project he designed a 75-question quiz that he deems "impossible."  For the next three weeks, SCOV Law will be publishing this quiz in segments.  Answers can be found at the bottom of the post.


The following 25 questions are designed to skunk.  If you know the answers, good, but count yourself in the minority as many of these facts and figures have slumped off into the corners of our state's history.  Vermont has always been a colorful state and not simply during foliage season.  The Vermont judiciary like any other segment of Vermont has its share of characters, rogues, and heroes.  Consider the following 25 questions and those that will follow in the coming weeks to be appetizersmorsels designed to whet and encourage rather than satiate the appetite.

Because the members of the Supreme Court were known as “Judges” until 1915, and “Justices” thereafter, questions using the correct term would provide a hint, which the quizmaster in this instance chooses to deny the testee.  Consequently, the term “judge” will apply to all.  Some questions ask for information about judges’ lives before or after they were on the Court. 

Finally, there may be reason to be frustrated with this quiz.  If there is to be pleasure, it should come, not from a high score, but from the experience of seeing the variety of experiences and personalities of those who sat on the Court.

—Paul Gillies

SCOV Quiz Part I (Questions 1–25)

1.       Who among the judges, prior to his service on the bench, was court-martialed for desertion.[i]

2.      Which judge became the world’s leading authority on railroad law?[ii]

3.      Which judge wrote the first American comedy to be performed by a regular theatrical company?[iii]

4.      Who was the youngest judge to serve on the SCOV?[iv]

5.      Which judge served the longest on the court?[v]

6.      Which judge held the position of chief justice longest?[vi]

7.      Which judge served the shortest time on the Court?[vii]

8.      Which judges were elected but never served on the Court?[viii]

9.      How many judges on the court attended law school?[ix]

10.  Which justice never read the law or attended law school before his election to the high court?[x]

11.  How many died in office?[xi]

12.   Who was the oldest judge to sit on the court?[xii]

13.  Which judges were subsequently appointed to the federal bench?[xiii]

14.  Which judge was a prisoner of war?[xiv]

15.   Which judge helped quell the Ely copper mine disturbance in 1883?[xv]

16.   How many Supreme Court judges does the Vermont Constitution mandate?[xvi]

17.    Which judge played a critical role at the Battle of Gettysburg?[xvii]

18.   What judge reminds you of Sherlock Holmes?[xviii]

19.   Which judge’s opposition to the wearing of robes on the bench delayed the practice until he retired?[xix]

20.    How many were born in Vermont?[xx]

21.   Which judge, prior to his election to the Court, played a critical role enforcing the Embargo of 1808?[xxi]

22.   Which judges were published poets?[xxii]

23.   Which judge was better known in Vermont as an orator than as a judge?[xxiii]

24.    Which judges also served as governor, before or after their service on the bench?[xxiv]

25.    Which judge disapproved of attorneys citing case law from other states?[xxv]

[i] John Fassett, Jr. abandoned his post on the Winooski River in Jericho in 1776 and was court-martialed.  He was subsequently allowed to return to duty.

[ii] Isaac Redfield’s Law of Railways (1861) was regarded as the bible of railroad law in the United States and Great Britain for many years.

[iii] Royall Tyler’s The Contrast was first performed in Boston in 1787.

[iv] Benjamin Steele was 28 years old when he was elected to the court.

[v] John Rowell served 31 years, eight months, 19 days.

[vi] John Pierpoint served 17 years as Chief Justice.

[vii] Robert Healy was appointed as Associate Justice on December 1, 1915 and resigned in January of the following year. 

[viii] Herman R. Beardsley was elected in September of 1865, but had second thoughts and resigned before his term began in January.  Simeon Olcutt was elected to the Court in September of 1781, and resigned on January 28, 1782, when Vermont repudiated its earlier experiment by enlarging its borders to include 16 New Hampshire towns.  Olcutt was a resident of Charlestown, New Hampshire.

[ix] 37 out of 131.

[x] LaForrest H. Thompson. 

[xi] Twelve, including four who were Chief Justice (or Chief Judge) at the time:  John Pierpoint, Russell Taft, John Watson, and George Powers.

[xii] John Rowell was 78 the last year he served on the court.  Eighteen judges of the 131 served past the age of 70.

[xiii] Nathaniel Chipman, Elijah Paine, and William Billings became U.S. District Judges; Wendell Stafford was appointed by President Roosevelt in 1904 to the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia four years after his appointment to the Vermont Supreme Court. 

[xiv] Lot Hall was captured by the British during the Revolutionary War, taken to Ireland, released, and taken prisoner again once his ship returned to the West Indies.  He was 18 at the time.  Nineteen years later, in 1794, he was elected to the Supreme Court.  Frank Fish, 67-68.  

[xv] John H. Watson, commanding the Bradford militia.

[xvi] No number is given; the decision is left to the General Assembly.

[xvii] Wheelock Veasey.

[xviii] John H. Watson, having the same name as Holmes’ companion.

[xix] Loveland Munson retired February 1, 1917.  The practice of wearing robes began shortly thereafter, when John H. Watson was appointed Chief Justice.

[xx] Sixty-five out of 130 judges.

[xxi] Charles K. Williams.

[xxii] Royall Tyler, of course, but also Stephen Jacob, whose poem was written and delivered at the first anniversary of the Battle of Bennington.

[xxiii] Wendell Stafford.

[xxiv] Twelve of the 131 held the position of Governor—Moses Robinson, Isaac Tichenor, Israel Smith, Jonas Galusha, William A. Palmer, C.P. Van Ness, Charles K. Williams, Stephen Royce, John Mattocks, Hiland Hall, and Jonas Galusha.

[xxv] Russell Taft.