Vermont Governor Phil Scott (R) nominated Judge William “Bill” Cohen to succeed Marilyn Skoglund as a justice on the Vermont Supreme Court. Skoglund retired on September 1, 2019. Cohen was Gov. Phil Scott’s (R) second nominee to the five-member supreme court.
At the time of his state supreme court appointment, Cohen was a superior court judge in Rutland County, Vermont. Governor Howard Dean appointed Cohen to the bench in 1999. Cohen was an attorney in private practice from 1986 to 1999. He was a deputy state’s attorney in Rutland County from 1984 to 1986. Cohen earned a B.A. in environmental science from George Washington University in 1980 and a J.D. from Vermont Law School in 1984.
Selection of state supreme court justices in Vermont occurs through gubernatorial appointment with state Senate confirmation. A judicial nominating commission submits a list of names to the governor, who then selects an appointee. The Vermont State Senate must also confirm the appointment. Approved nominees serve for six years, at which point they face retention by a vote of the Vermont General Assembly.
Founded in 1777, the Vermont Supreme Court is the state’s court of last resort and has five judgeships. As of December 2019, two of the court’s justices were appointed by Republican governors and two were appointed by a Democratic governor.
In 2019, there have been 22 supreme court vacancies across 14 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. Retirements caused 14 of the vacancies. Two former justices took jobs in the private sector. One vacancy occurred when a justice was elevated to chief justice of the court, one occurred when a chief justice died, and four others occurred when the justices were elevated to federal judicial positions.
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