Project Bierce

Named after Ambrose Bierce, father of the Devil's Dictionary, this is our definition page.  As with its forebearer, it is meant to mock our own pretensions while imparting some useful tidbits. Below you will find definitions and miscellaneous bits of sense. If you have a suggestion or definition for this page, please let us know.


Alcohol emanating: the scent that every police officer and trooper should detect the moment he/she stops a vehicle for the slightest of reasons.


Civil Division:  People suing people (never the luckiest ones in the world).  If you win, you either get money or an injunction.

Civilians: Neither lawyer nor Pro-Ser, these are your friends, neighbors, and family members who listen to your stories and tales of procedural malfeasance with a patient ear and limited curiosity as to how another human being could make themselves a part of such a system.  They are also the first to come up to you at a party with questions about how to solve their own dilemmas.

Criminal Division:  The trial court division where the state sues people (who have allegedly "done wrong").  Two important differences from the Civil Division.  1), the stakes are money and freedom, but  2) only for the Defendant.  At least one wit has suggested that criminal court is where bad people show their best side while family court is where good people show their worst side.

CUSI: Vermont, or rather Chittenden County's answer to CSI: SVU.  It stands for the Chittenden Unit for Special Investigations.  Comprised of law enforcement throughout Chittenden County, the Unit is tasked with investigating sexual assaults and child abuse.  If these guys come knocking call yourself a good lawyer because they are not following up on overdue parking tickets.


Dunker: A no-brainer decision by the SCOV. Apologies to David Simon.


Environmental Division: Where builders develop ulcers, neighbors vent about the way things used to be, and everyone uses court procedure to get the structure that they (don't) want.  This is the court that reviews Act 250, zoning permits, and enforcement.  Not to be confused, despite the tenor of the parties, with the Family Division.


Family Division: The place where the family jigsaw puzzles are taken apart, which inevitably leads to a fight about who gets to keep the box.  The stakes here are money and the kids.  If you do not have either, your total time in this court should be limited to three hearings.


Game, the: The world of litigation where parties, strategy, and ideas clash.  The term invokes the atmosphere, generalship, quick-thinking, and research that go into crafting cases.  It acknowledges the playful, almost beguiling fascination that the legal system holds for most attorneys and dedicated observers.  It is the last word, to use with your clients.


Injunction: An order from the court that says one of two things:  Stop doing that! or Start doing that!  Occasionally, it will, in the words of Curtis Mayfield, order a party to Keep on Keeping on.  


Lawyer's Vacation: The space between the question put to a witness and her answer. 


Pro-Ser: The ultimate DIYer, who tries, but rarely prevails, to build her fortune or freedom out of the truth.  Occasionally an attorney of questionable competence but definite self-interest.

Probate Division:  The home of wills and trusts.  Judges here are the only elected officials in the judiciary (apart from Assistant Judges).  Vermont recently made it the law that all such candidates must be law trained.  Appeals from Probate go to the Civil Division.


Red Ball: A high profile decision that draws an unusual amount of attention from the media and laity.  Additional apologies to Mr. Simon (see Dunker above).


SCOV: The Supreme Court of Vermont. No one but the coolest attorneys and commentators use this phrase.


Trial Court: The Superior Court.  It is composed of five fingers or "divisions": Civil; Criminal; Family; Probate; and Environmental.  Although it will not publicly acknowledge this fact, this structure is due in large part to the Court Administrator's Office's on-going obsession with Kung Fu flicks and heavy metal.


Unnamed Partner: The legal profession attracts many types of personalities: the slick deal-maker; the Bulldog; and the passive aggressive bully being only three of the more well-known types, but every law firm has an older partner whose practice has given him or her a decidedly slanted view of the world and a range of interests that range from the arcane to the seemingly mundane.  This character is a treasure-trove of information, stories, opinion, and resources none of which will necessarily make you any more approachable to civilians but will grow on you with an alarming intensity and interest the longer you practice.