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Robinson tapped for Supreme Court vacancy

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Posted on October 20, 2011 |
By John Flowers



bethrobinson.jpg
ADDISON COUNTY RESIDENT Beth Robinson, General Counsel to Gov. Peter Shumlin and a marriage equality activist, has been selected to fill a vacancy on the Vermont Supreme Court Independent file photo/Trent Campbell

MIDDLEBURY — Addison County resident Beth Robinson’s impressive resume got a little more stellar on Tuesday. The longtime attorney, victorious co-counsel in the Baker v. Vermont marriage equality case, and current general counsel to Gov. Peter Shumlin learned that she will serve on the state’s highest court.

“I am proud to appoint Beth Robinson to the Supreme Court,” Shumlin said through a written statement. “Beth’s strong legal background, experience with crafting legislation at the Statehouse and commitment to the equal rights of all Vermonters will make her an exceptional justice on the Vermont Supreme Court.”

Robinson will replace Justice Denise Johnson, who announced her retirement this past summer. Robinson submitted her resume along with the other applicants seeking to fill the coveted spot.

“I was humbled and thrilled when the governor told me he was appointing me,” Robinson said during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. Her appointment was confirmed, coincidentally, on the same day as the Vermont Supreme Court convened for the first time ever at the Addison County Courthouse.

“It’s an interesting juxtaposition. I hadn’t thought about that,” Robinson said of the timing of the announcement.

Robinson anticipates being sworn in next month, and then will be able to hear cases with her fellow justices.

It will be Robinson’s first experience hearing cases as a judge.

Robinson practiced law for 18 years at Langrock Sperry & Wool in Middlebury and Burlington, with a civil practice that included workers’ compensation, family law, employment law, negligence and injury cases.

She served as co-counsel in the case of Baker v. Vermont, the landmark case that led to Vermont’s passage of a first-in-the-nation civil union law in 2000. Robinson then helped lobby for the same-sex marriage law that the Vermont Legislature adopted in 2009.

It was during November of last year that Robinson accepted then-Governor-elect Shumlin’s invitation to serve as his general counsel. It’s a role that has seen her advise Shumlin on the potential legal ramifications of issues that come before him, review legislation before it gets signed it into law, and provide guidance in cases of pardon requests and other matters.

Shumlin acknowledged that he will miss having Robinson on his staff.

“While I am thrilled to see Beth go to the Court and believe her to be the best qualified of an extraordinary pool of candidates, I am also sad to lose Beth as my legal counsel,” Shumlin said. “In addition to depending on Beth’s sound legal advice, it is a pleasure to work with her every day.”

Robinson graduated from Dartmouth College in 1986 and the University of Chicago Law School in 1989.

She’ll spend the coming weeks finishing up her duties as general counsel and providing guidance to her future successor.

Robinson is not sure how long her tenure will be on the state’s highest court. She is not planning that far ahead.

“I try not to think about things ‘for the rest of my life.’ It’s too scary a thought,” Robinson said. “But I certainly hope to be there for a good long time.”

Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com

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