Saturday, March 31, 2018

Disposition Report Review

And one thing led to another . . .
In re Kane, 2017 VT 48

By Elizabeth Kruska

One thing the Vermont Supreme Court is called upon to do is to review Judicial Conduct Board opinions and decisions. That’s what they do here.

Let’s back up. We have judges—some are appointed, and some are elected, depending on the situation. Regardless, both flavors of judge are bound by the Code of Judicial Conduct. It’s made of several canons, all of which, when read together, are meant to control and govern judges’ behavior and conduct. The Code applies to elected judges as soon as they declare candidacy for the position. The Board retains jurisdiction if a complaint is made within three years of the discovery of grounds for the complaint.

I’m not going to re-hash the facts here, because the Board wrote a little over twelve pages of facts, and it’s worth reading. To boil it way down, a complaint was filed against Paul Kane, a former assistant judge, for his handling of and involvement in an estate. This isn’t an estate that he handled as a judge—it was a family friend’s estate where he had personal involvement. The best way I can envision this estate is like a radar depiction of a hurricane; there was the main issue in the middle, but several smaller arms of issues sort of radiating off and spinning out of the center.

The Board, in response to the complaint, found by clear and convincing evidence that Mr. Kane had violated several Canons of the Code of Judicial Conduct. The punishment imposed was a public reprimand, an immediate and indefinite suspension from being an assistant judge, and a prohibition on holding any judicial office in the State of Vermont in the future.

Enter the Vermont Supreme Court. The heavy lifting of fact-finding and writing has already been done by the Judicial Conduct Board in its Disposition Report. Upon its own motion, SCOV reviews this report and adopts it, thereby immediately and permanently suspending Mr. Kane from holding judicial office in Vermont in the future.

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