Monday, April 30, 2012

Chain, Chain, Chain…

Wells Fargo Bank v. Rouleau, 2012 VT 19

Praises to those who helped unbundle this secured transactions case full of promissory notes, assignments, securitization, and bunches and bunches of entities and transfers—oh, my!  At the end of the day, the SCOV boils the case down quite simply: the creditor with standing is the creditor with original negotiable instruments, made payable to the creditor, and the creditor need not prove how it came upon them.

Clear as mud.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What a Difference a Word Makes

By Michael Tarrant

Co-operative Insurance Cos. v. Woodward, 2012 VT 22

By now, most people in Vermont have probably heard of the Michael Jacques murder trial currently pending in Federal District Court in Burlington. Aside from the absolutely horrific allegations underlying the case, one of the more interesting legal aspects is that the federal government decided to step in and pursue federal kidnapping and murder charges against Jacques rather than allow the State of Vermont to prosecute him under its own murder laws. Interestingly—and most likely importantly—federal law allows for the death penalty whereas Vermont law does not (save for treason).

Notwithstanding the legal jurisdiction wrangling, such an infamous crime is bound to have further legal consequences for the parties involved than the actual murder trial itself. Think about OJ Simpson and the subsequent civil trials and judgments that followed his acquittal. There is a reason that he later stood in a Las Vegas courtroom accused of trying to steal back his memorabilia. It was all taken from him through a series of wrongful death actions by the families of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Vermont Bureau of Judicial Historic Places

SCOV Law is once again pleased to present the work of Attorney Paul Gillies.  Today’s piece stems in part from Paul’s role as president of the Vermont Judicial Historical Society, which re-enacts famous Vermont trials each June in various courthouses around the state.  The function of the Society, as well as this piece, is to reinforce the connection between the law as it stands today and its origins in the cases and conflicts that mark our shared judicial history. 

Nothing in the law arises in and of itself.  The law is best understood as a great chain of being that links our current government to the democracies that founded and preceded it.  It is often the role of the judiciary to remind the other branches of the common purposes and original principles that govern our society.  It is Paul’s cause to remind us all that these principles are not abstract ideals plucked from the clouds but the results of unique circumstances and landmark moments where judges, lawyers, and citizens acted in ways that continue to affect our lives.

The following is a call to action, a prayer for relief, and a proposal for the next chapter of historic preservation in Vermont.


Those green plaques that spot the landscape in many towns in Vermont are historic roadside markers administered by the Vermont Division of Historic Preservation.  Like most Vermonters, you have probably seen but never stopped to read these memorials.  They are often located at the most inconvenient places to stop . . . or maybe it’s just always an inconvenient time to stop when you pass them. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

You Need Not Know Our Methods

Rutland Herald v. Vermont State Police, 2012 VT 24.

The Vermont Public Records Act is an important and expansive law that gives individuals the power to request an unlimited number of documents from various agencies of the State as well as any municipality.  With little more than a stamp and a well-phrased request, anyone can make an inquiry that will yield a trove of documents from the agency—good, bad, or ugly. 

Trying doing that next time you have a beef with General Electric.

Monday, April 9, 2012

I Travel the Open Road

In re Town Highway No. 20, Town of Georgia, 2012 VT 17.

At first glance, the SCOV has had a slow year.  By last year at this time, it had already issued twice as many published opinions and seemed to be on record to outpace its previous docket records.  This year, the SCOV has been quieter, issuing fewer decisions.  There are always a number of reasons for this difference.  No doubt the retirement of Justice Johnson created a certain gap between her service and Justice Robinson’s succession, and the budget-induced mandatory furlough days wreak havoc on a monthly basis.  But its recent decisions, including today’s, indicate that the SCOV has had to wrestle with a number of difficult issues and has not emerged with much consensus. 

Today’s case is a story of two roads, a property owner who sought to use them for development, and a town with a fatal conflict of interest.  In this case, as with most road litigation, the history of the Town’s involvement with the road is a necessary prelude to set the stage and to illustrate the long-simmering dispute between the players. 

Friday, April 6, 2012

No Wrath to Come

By Nicole Killoran

In re D.K., 2012 VT 23.

The recipe for today’s case includes: two parts jurisdictional gap in juvenile prosecution; one part legislative hindsight; and seven parts youthful indiscretion.  The final result is more judicial casserole than soufflĂ©. 

Insult to Injury

By Michael Tarrant

State v. Handy, 2012 VT 21

It does not take a great stretch of the imagination to believe that a victim of crime might experience after-effects following the initial criminal act itself.  Notwithstanding other concerns, when the crime at issue involves forced sexual acts, the fear of sexually transmitted diseases—including transmission of the AIDS virus—is not only perfectly legitimate, it’s beyond obvious.  Today’s case tests the constitutionality of a Vermont statute that allows victims of such crimes to obtain a court order requiring the convicted offender to submit to sexually transmitted disease testing.