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How Does The Vermont Superior Court Work?

The Vermont Superior Court is the state’s trial court. It has five divisions and fourteen units, one for each county in the state of Vermont. 

The five Divisions of the Vermont Superior Court are:

  • Civil Division
  • Criminal Division
  • Environmental Division
  • Family Division 
  • Probate Division

The Civil Division of the Superior Court entertains civil matters such as breach of contract, eviction, foreclosure, wrongful death, etc. It can also take appeals from the Probate Division of the court.  The Civil Division has a small claims court that takes cases where the disputed amount is up to $5,000. Each Civil Division of the Superior Court has geographical jurisdiction over the county where it is located. The court comprises one Presiding Superior Judge and two Assistant Judges. 

The Criminal Division of the Superior Court, also called the Criminal Court, is located across the fourteen counties. A Judge of the Criminal Division has the responsibility to determine a defendant’s guilt or innocence. This determination can be through guilty pleas, court, or jury trials.  The Criminal Division handles felonies and misdemeanors and may handle serious traffic violations. A Judge in this division also has the power to approve or decline an arrest or search warrant.

The Criminal Division also has special treatment courts and specialty dockets such as adult and juvenile drug courts and mental health courts. The composition of the court is: one Superior Judge sitting alone.

The Environmental Division of the court handles environmental law issues. This division has statewide jurisdiction and one Environmental Judge sitting alone.

The Family Court handles family issues such as divorce, civil union dissolution, separation, child support, and custody decisions. It also ascertains how best to care for victims of domestic violence and persons with mental illness and intellectual disabilities. 

This court does not entertain jury trials. Instead, decisions are made by the magistrate or Presiding Judge who may be accompanied by two Assistant Judges.   

The Probate Division takes care of matters such as adoption, birth, death and marriage records, estate, trust and wills, and marriage solemnization by non-resident clergy.

The Probate Court has fourteen Judges elected to four-year terms. Decisions are reached in each unit by one Probate Judge sitting alone.

The Vermont Superior Court also has a Judicial Bureau with statewide jurisdiction over civil violations such as:

  • Traffic violations, 
  • Non-Criminal marijuana violations, 
  • Environmental violations, 
  • Cruelty to animals, 
  • Burning and waste disposal violations, 
  • Fishing, hunting and trapping violations, 
  • Lead hazard abatement violations, and
  • Municipal ordinance violation. 

Appeals from the Judicial Bureau are made to the Criminal Division of the Superior Court.

The Vermont Superior Court is headed by a Chief Superior Judge who assists the Supreme Court Justices and the Court Administrator in administering the Vermont court system. 

A Presiding Judge is assigned to each unit of the Vermont Superior Court by the Chief Superior Judge. The Presiding Judge for each unit then administers the operations of the different divisions in the unit. 

The Presiding Judge may designate a Superior Judge to preside over cases across different divisions where the need arises. These assignments are usually for a period of one year and are subject to the Supreme Court’s consent.

The Vermont Statutes provides for thirty-four Superior Court Judges appointed to a six-year team. There is also the option of retention, which is subject to the concurrence of the General Assembly.

To qualify as a Judge of the Vermont Superior Court, the candidate must be a Vermont resident. The person must also be an experienced lawyer who has practiced law for a cumulative minimum period of ten years. 

For the five years preceding his application, the candidate must have practiced law without interruptions. However, exceptions may be made to this requirement for an absence caused by family, military, academic or medical causes.

The candidate must further possess the following attributes:

  • Excellent character and integrity
  • Adequate knowledge of established principles of law and procedure 
  • Ability to interpret the law to factual situations
  • Appropriate judicial temperament 
  • Impartiality
  • Oral and written capacity
  • Financial probity
  • Diligent work ethic
  • Managerial and organizational skill
  • Sufficient courtroom experience
  • Sufficient knowledge of Vermont rules of evidence and procedure
  • For the Environmental Division, adequate knowledge of Environmental and Zoning law and other requirements provided by the Judicial Nominating Board.

Note that a Superior Court Judge is not allowed to be an officer in an insurance, banking, or railroad corporation in the state. If a Superior Judge’s term expires, the Judge is allowed to remain in office and conclude any case already started.

The Vermont Superior Court has units located in the fourteen counties of the state. Each county may have different locations for the different Divisions of the court.

For more information on the location and contact details of the different courts, use the information provided:

Addison County

Addison Civil Division

Addison Criminal Division

Addison Family Division

Addison Probate Division

Bennington County

Bennington Civil Division

Bennington Criminal Division 

Bennington Family Division

Bennington Probate Division 

Caledonia County

Caledonia Civil Division

Caledonia Criminal Division 

Caledonia Family Division

Caledonia Probate Division

Chittenden County

Chittenden Civil Division

Chittenden Criminal Division  

Chittenden Family Division

Chittenden Probate Division 

Environmental Division

Environmental Division

Essex County

Essex Civil Division

Essex Criminal Division

Essex Family Division

Essex Probate Division

Franklin County

Franklin Civil Division

Franklin Criminal Division

Franklin Family Division

Franklin Probate Division 

Grand Isle County

Grand isle Civil Division

Grand isle Criminal Division

Grand isle Family Division

Grand isle Probate Division 

Judicial Bureau

Judicial Bureau

Lamoille County

Lamoille Civil Division

Lamoille Criminal Division

Lamoille Family Division

Lamoille Probate Division 

Orange County

Orange Civil Division

Orange Criminal Division

Orange Family Division

Orange Probate Division

Orleans County

Orleans Civil Division

Orleans Criminal Division

Orleans Family Division

Orleans Probate Division

Rutland County

Rutland Civil Division

Rutland Criminal Division

Rutland Family Division

Rutland Probate Division

Washington County

Washington Civil Division

Washington Criminal Division

Washington Family Division 

Washington Probate Division 

Windham County

Windham Civil Division

Windham Criminal Division  

Windham Family Division

Windham Probate Division

Windsor County

Windsor Civil Division

Windsor Criminal Division

Windsor Family Division

Windsor Probate Division

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