Justice Dooley’s Final Political Stunt

by John McClaughry

Outgoing Gov. Peter Shumlin is about to name a Supreme Court Justice to replace the retiring John Dooley. What’s unusual about this is that there isn’t a vacancy for Shumlin to fill – not until March, when Dooley will actually go off the payroll. By that time, new Gov. Phil Scott will have the power to nominate a replacement. So Dooley informs Shumlin that he can appoint a replacement now, even though there is no vacancy, and the new appointee will take office only when Dooley decides to depart.

This is the final political stunt engineered by John Dooley, probably the most political justice to serve on the high court at least since World War II.

Legal Aid lawyer Dooley was known as “the little governor” when he was Gov. Madeleine Kunin’s chief lieutenant, until she appointed him to the Court in 1987. He gave us the constitutionally unsupportable Brigham school finance decision, that Dooley himself once described as a trip into constitutional “never never land”. He has joined numerous decisions where the Court admitted that lower court rulings were “technically correct”, but had to be overturned in the name of “our common humanity”, “best interests of the child”, and other such extra-constitutional creations.

Gov. Scott should say, now, “ if there’s a vacancy today, Gov. Shumlin can appoint a replacement. If there’s  a vacancy in March, I will appoint the replacement. No more political games.”

– John McClaughry is the vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.


{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

SHAZZAM December 22, 2016 at 4:06 pm

If Vermont could only rid itself of other Kunin failures over time.
You assume so much gravitas from Mr. Scott ….
His ‘statement’ on this issue will give us a look into our future.
As for Mr. Dooley, don’t let the door hit you ace ….


ctk56 December 23, 2016 at 11:19 pm

Why doesn’t Justice Dooley resign now, allowing Governor Shumlin to appoint his successor and avoiding divisive issues.


Jim Bulmer December 24, 2016 at 1:03 am

If there is a sitting judge on the bench, there is no vacancy. After too many years, I’m sick of the crap that has been going on in Montpelier. If Shumlin falls for this blatant scam, he should be ashamed of himself. He’s done enough damage during his terms in office.


Shazzam December 24, 2016 at 3:52 am

We get the kind of government we deserve ….


j paul Giuliani December 24, 2016 at 3:48 pm

Let us not forget that Dooley’s fingerprints are all over the Mahady Affair, His intrigue in getting Justice Peck to resign so that Queen Madge could appointed her Dooley-selected replacement turned the Supreme Court into a political instrument. Judicial restraint and respect for precedence precedent are not in his character.


ivan December 29, 2016 at 6:08 pm

Once again it is up to all of us to make some noise and call our Governor elect
and representatives to demand they do the legal and moral thing and stop Shumlin
and the Dems from going rogue again.
The Judge should resign now/today or Phil Scott will have the appoint his replacment
is March when Justice Dooley marches off into the sunset.


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