MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – Middlebury College will host the Vermont Supreme Court for the first time on Wednesday, January 15, when the court’s justices hear oral arguments in four cases, including one that challenges the validity of the Vermont State Board of Education’s order that certain school districts merge into larger, consolidated districts. The justices usually hold term in the Supreme Court building in Vermont’s state capital, Montpelier, but, for the past three years, the court has also held a term it calls “On the Road,” usually at a Vermont high school.
“We are pleased and honored that the Vermont Supreme Court is coming to our campus,” said Middlebury President Laurie Patton. “It offers a rare opportunity for our students and community members to learn more about Vermont’s judicial system by experiencing the appellate process in person.”
“We are also grateful that the justices are willing to engage in a Q&A session with our students and other students from local area high schools,” added Sue Ritter, Middlebury special assistant to the president and the organizer of the event. “We deeply appreciate the efforts of the justices and the court’s staff to make ‘On the Road’ such a wonderful educational opportunity for all of us.”
Wilson Hall in Middlebury’s McCullough Student Center will serve as the justices’ courtroom. Arguments will follow the same pattern as those held by the Supreme Court in Montpelier. Three appellate arguments will occupy the court in the morning at 9:30, 10, and 11 a.m., and each side will have 15 minutes to argue its case. In the afternoon, the fourth and final hearing will take place from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m., and the parties will be allotted 30 minutes each for oral argument. The students will have an opportunity to interact with the justices during a question-and-answer session at 11:30 a.m.
Retired Vermont Supreme Court Justices Marilyn Skoglund and John Dooley are currently teaching a January term course, State Supreme Courts: How They Work and When They Don’t, at the College. Ritter said the students from this class as well as students from Middlebury Union High School and Mount Abraham Union High School plan to attend the oral arguments.
“The court appreciates Middlebury’s invitation to have hearings on its campus,” Chief Justice Paul Reiber said. “The court hopes that this event will inspire students from the College and surrounding high schools to better understand the contributions of lawyers and judges in furthering the rule of law and to learn more about Vermont’s judiciary.”
The public is welcome to attend the hearings. Existing rules of etiquette and security apply for members of the public and for the media during court proceedings. Everyone will be required to go through routine security screening, so an early arrival is advisable. If Wilson Hall reaches capacity seating, overflow seating and a live webcast of the proceedings will be available at Crossroads Café in McCullough Student Center (morning and afternoon hearings) and in Dana Auditorium (afternoon hearing only).