Governor Peter Shumlin has chosen Superior Court Judge Geoffrey Crawford to fill a vacancy on the Vermont Supreme Court.
Crawford is a Harvard Law School graduate who was in private practice in Burlington before being appointed to Superior Court in 2002 by then-Governor Howard Dean.
He will replace retiring justice Brian Burgess. Both were trial court judges.
“He’s going to bring some trial court experience to the Supreme Court. I think it’s a great choice,” says Vermont Bar Association Executive Director Bob Paolini.
Vermont Law School constitutional law professor Cheryl Hanna believes Crawford’s trial background was a factor in Shumlin’s decision. Hanna says the new justice will bring both intellectual gifts and a humanistic approach to the law to the court.
“He’s extremely well respected among advocates and folks in the human service community,” she says. “He’s really one of those judges we talk about that really understands the way the law affects people.”
As a Superior Court judge, Crawford presided in the trial of Christopher Williams who killed two Essex women in 2006, a crime which shook the community. Hanna says she was impressed by Crawford’s sensitivity to the impact the crime had on the victim’s families and the community.
She says Crawford’s appointment gives a court a slightly more liberal tilt because now four of the five justices have been selected by Democratic governors. Only Chief Justice Paul Reiber is a Republican appointee.
Hanna says that doesn’t mean there will always be a clear ideological divide in Vermont Supreme Court decisions but she says she expects to see more 4-1 decisions than in the past.
Montpelier lawyer Paul Gillies, who has authored a book on Vermont's legal history says, "Judge Crawford becomes the 132nd justice of the Vermont Supreme Court and having seen him in action, I think it's a great appointment."
Crawford’s appointment will have to be confirmed by the Vermont Senate.