A controversial land deal between Governor Peter Shumlin and his neighbor, Jerry Dodge, will soon be battled out between lawyers.
The governor has hired well-known Montpelier attorney Jerry Diamond, but Jerry Dodge is still scrambling to find affordable legal counsel. He and his family are trying to reclaim their East Montpelier homestead from the governor. And they do not plan to take Shumlin up on his offer to pay for their lawyer this time around. Dodge and his daughter met with Vermont Legal Aid Tuesday afternoon but came away empty-handed. Legal Aid provides free civil legal services to Vermonters who are poor, elderly or disabled, but Tuesday they told the Dodges they don't handle real estate cases. Instead legal aid provided the Dodges with a list of four real estate attorneys to reach out to. The family says they feel financially out-gunned by the governor.
"The guy knows we're low income people, of course he's going to win, of course he's got all the money, of course he can throw dollars out there and lawyers will jump to him, of course he can do all that. When we throw nothing -- lawyers aren't going to jump to us. We have to look for that lawyer. We'll fight for it. We'll keep fighting. We'll keep going on with it until it's ended," said Rochelle Dodge.
"Now he's offering to pay for a lawyer to help me out and stuff like that but I'm very cautious of him paying for a lawyer because the lawyer gets paid by him and they're going to work towards him. That's why I'd rather get my own attorney that's not politically involved," Jerry Dodge said.
The Dodges say although they've been told there are lawyers who would be willing to take their case pro bono, none have approached them. And the Dodge family may face an uphill battle. Jerry Diamond served three terms as Vermont's Attorney General. He also won the Democratic primary for Governor, but then lost in the general election to Dick Snelling. Diamond now practices law in Montpelier. He is handling any media questions about the Governor's new land deal. He was traveling Tuesday and unavailable for an interview.
Diamond says he has reached out to Jerry Dodge to exchange contact information. The Dodge family hopes to find their own lawyer before the end of the week. Dodge says some people have suggested setting up a legal fund, but that he's hesitant because he doesn't want to look like a charity case. Dodge says he may have lost his land but he still has his pride. The Dodge family says this is new territory for them and they don't know how to start a legal fund. In the meantime, Dodge's daughter is in the process of becoming her dad's financial guardian.