Vermont Judiciary COVID-19 Emergency Funding Authorization Needs

W_Pat Gabel_Vermont Judiciary Covid-19 E
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I recently received this document (above^^) and am a bit perplexed by it.

This document is from Patricia Gabel, Esq., State Court Administrator, and is to Sen. Dick Sears, Chair, Senate Judiciary Committee Sen. Alice W. Nitka, Vice Chair Sen. Jeanette K. White, Sen. Joe Benning, Sen. Phillip Baruth, Peggy Delaney, Committee Assistant.

The document starts off:

The COVID-19 pandemic, and the statewide Judicial Emergency it has created, has had, and will continue to have, a profound impact on Judiciary operations. Even as the Governor begins easing some restrictions on public interaction, it is clear that social distancing will remain a critical public health priority for the foreseeable future. The impact on Judiciary operations that will result will be significant.

In order to meet our core constitutional obligations, while promoting public health and protecting the health of our workforce, the Judiciary must quickly make a host of short, medium, and long term changes during this calendar year in order to meet our core constitutional obligations.

It goes on to break down these changes into the following categories:

  • Safe Spaces for Judiciary Staff and Participants in Court Proceedings

  • Jury Trials and Social Distancing

  • Remote Technology for Other Court Proceedings:

  • Remote Technologies and Services for Court Users

  • Addressing the Backlog

  • Public Access to Court Proceedings

  • Administrative Challenges

  • Recognition of Staff Challenges and Service

  • Treatment Docket Supports

Within each category, they break down the changes and how much it will cost to implement these changes. Spoiler alert: they are estimating over 5 million dollars.

I find it interesting that it has been over a year since "Covid" reared its ugly head and they still have not figured out a way to resume jury trials or allow for public access to hearings. How many people in Vermont have been incarcerated pending trial since March 2020? How many people in Vermont have been denied access to public hearings?

I'm further curious about the following statement because I personally know many food service workers who were deemed "essential" who have worked the entirety of this circus with the public where they could not be assured of minimum physical distancing and weren't given "premium pay":

Recognition of Staff Challenges and Service: Because the Judiciary has not fully halted in person hearings, and because remote hearings require a level of in-courthouse staffing, many staff have been asked to deal directly with the public under circumstances where they cannot be assured minimum physical distancing. In recognition of that fact, the Judiciary has agreed to:

• Premium pay for employees dealing directly with the public under circumstances where they cannot be assured of minimum physical distancing

In any case, I and the one who forwarded this to me find this document quite interesting and thought it should be shared. Please share your thoughts!


Mary Sheldon

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