Sitting down with Vermont's Chief Justice - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Sitting down with Vermont's Chief Justice

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MONTPELIER, Vt. -

Five empty seats -- but only one needs to be filled.

The Vermont Supreme Court is looking for a new judge after Justice Brian Burgess announced his retirement.

"He approaches cases in a very thorough way," says Chief Justice Paul Reiber.

Chief Justice Paul Reiber says he will miss Burgess' intellect and humor.

Reporter Gina Bullard: "How did he affect the deliberation process?"

Chief Justice Reiber: "Brian many times has served the role of arbiter of differences in opinions on the court."

Reporter Gina Bullard: "Is it good for the Court to have regular turnover?"

Chief Justice Reiber: "That's an interesting question. Yeah, I think it is. It's good to have new blood."

Reiber says the next Justice needs to be a person who can relate and analyze combinations of complex questions.

"I think what you want to look for is someone who is a substantial character, who is very well grounded, who is compassionate, who understands the problems of people," he says.

The court has had its own problems. Facing a budget shortfall, three years ago Reiber pushed for a major overhaul of Vermont's court system, creating a unified management structure where all courts are overseen by the Vermont Supreme Court.

Reiber says the system is more efficient, saving $1 million a year as projected. But Reiber says there are still problems.

"We have a number of courts that are under significant stress because of the workload our people are under, and the hiring freeze we had to put in place last fall to balance the budget," says Chief Justice Reiber.

Another problem for the court -- technology. Last year officials spent $1.7-million of taxpayer money to modernize the courts computer system. The goal: all court documents in the state would be accessible through one system. Reiber says it had never been done before in the country. But the court pulled out of the contract, saying the software did not work.

Reporter Gina Bullard: "How did that happen? Who is to blame?"

Chief Justice Reiber: "We've learned about the system we have and the system we want."

As for change, Reiber has no plans to leave and is looking forward to getting a new viewpoint on the bench.

"One of the best things about this court is the common committment that the five of us have to ensure justice," says Chief Justice Reiber.

In Vermont, Supreme Court justices are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate. They have to retire when they turn 90 years old.

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