One recommendation being considered by a commission created by the Legislature to review the state’s judicial system is to reduce the number of probate judges in southern Vermont from five to one.
Later this week, the commission will vote on whether to recommend to the Legislature that Vermont’s probate judge count be reduced from 17 to five.
The commission was charged with the task of finding inefficiencies in the court system and recommending ways to eliminate them in order to reduce the judiciary’s budget.
The proposed recommendations have been met with objections from probate judges and trust administrators around the state who contend the changes would inconvenience petitioners, make the courts less familiar with the needs of the populace and overload the remaining judges with too much work.
In an article in the Fall 2009 Vermont Bar Journal, Probate Judges Joanne Ertel and George Belcher wrote that the process behind the commission’s deliberations are of a "flawed nature," the data it relied on were inaccurate and it failed to "adequately weigh the consequences of the recommendations."
Ertel told the Reformer that their article speaks for itself.
"We are speaking from the heart," she said.
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Panel Would Cut Windham Probate Judges From 5 to 1