Sunday, March 31, 2013

As I Lay Petitioning

In re Chandler, 2013 VT 10

Today’s case is like that little house at the end of the lane.  It is a simple and straightforward affair that like any other ghost story becomes less and less about the surface and more and more about the past that continues to lurk below.  As Faulkner said, the past is never dead.  It's not even past.

In 2006, Petitioner got into an argument with firefighters who were on his property, and he was charged with impeding a public officer—a felony under Vermont law.  Following a three-day trial, a jury convicted Petitioner, and the court sentenced him to 30 days in jail—not exactly your stiffest sentence, but more about that latter. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Next Big Thing (and How to Sue It)

Never ones to shy away from self-promotion here at the SCOV Law Blog, we are proud to make you aware of a fantastic and up coming event at the Vermont Law School on the future of the legal profession and the practice of law.  There is a stellar supporting cast of presenters and a token SCOV Law blogger.

For anyone seriously considering what the next decade holds for the business and practice of law, you need to be a part of the conversation.  Clear your calendar and book your reservation now.  It is coming up Friday, April 5, 2013.

Click below the fold for the details.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Incredible Vanishing Constitution!

By David Rangaviz

State v. Bogert, 2013 VT 13

On its face, the Bill of Rights is absolute.

“The people” have the right to assemble, keep and bear arms, and be free from unreasonable searches.  “The accused” enjoy rights to a speedy and public trial, an impartial jury, to be confronted with the witnesses against them, and to have the assistance of counsel.

Other provisions are mandatory prohibitions on government action.  Congress “shall make no law” establishing a religion, prohibiting its free exercise, or abridging the freedom of speech.  Cruel and unusual punishments “shall not” be inflicted.

As applied, however, the Constitution is rife with exceptions.

DIY Asset Management Backfires

Shattuck v. Peck, 2013 VT 1

It is easy to think of marriage as a special status where we, as a society, recognize the union of two lives into one and bestow benefits upon that favored coupling.  But closer scrutiny (and a few years in family court) will show that marriage is part benefit and part protection.  Or as many hung-over Vegas tourists have learned, marriage may be easy to enter, but it is notoriously difficult to undo—celebrity examples notwithstanding. 

There is a reason for that.  For all of the ethereal talk of a marriage of true minds, marriage is also a business proposition that is part securities merger and part contract.  To that end, family court is the impediment that the parties admit to ensure that any stock split is conducted in a fair and equitable manner. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Who Is In Charge Here?

Engel v. Engel, 2012 VT 85

When can a court delegate its authority to determine parent-child contact and parental rights and responsibilities?  Short answer is—it can’t!

In today’s case, Mom and Dad were going through a less than amicable divorce.  Both seemed to have had problems—financial difficulties, clutter that was reaching A&E levels, verbal conflict, and physical abuse—all of which were contributing to the collapse of the marriage and trouble with the kids.  As a result, everyone agreed that the children, at least at first, should live with Mom’s parents.  Mom and Dad also stipulated to the trial court that Mom would have supervised visitation with the kids at the grandparents’ house. 

This did not last long.  Mom quickly wore out her welcome during these supervised visits at her parents’ home, and the visits switched to a nonprofit family center. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Hooray for the Generals!

In re Stowe Highlands Merger/Subdivision Application, 2013 VT 4.

Isn’t it a shame?  Here we are in the 21st century with the whole of history at our fingertips.  A few key strokes on You Tube and we can watch the I Have a Dream Speech while over on some blog we can read an in-depth discussion of each episode of the Jerry Van Dyke series, My Mother, the Car.  Yet, none of this absolute stream of information can take the place of the thrill that once came from a mixture of anticipation, rumor, and not knowing whether the good guy or the stooge would win in the end.

I am talking of course about watching the Harlem Globetrotters trounce the Washington Generals.  For a kid who was lucky enough to get seats at the Richfield Coliseum to watch Meadowlark Lemmon and his crew clown around and over the Hapless Washington Generals, what could ever compare with sitting in the stands, thinking . . . Is this the night?  Will the Globetrotters pull it out?  Could the Generals win?  Tonight?

The thrill was in the what if.  Sure the Globetrotters won every time, but there was always that chance that you could be watching history, watching the patsy win.  Well, that was enough to knock you out of your seat even if you wanted the Globetrotters to win more than anything else. 

Fortunately for Vermont legal observers, we have our own Generals to watch and for the past twenty years they have provided us with same type of hapless hijinks that mark their basketball cousins.