- Associated Press - Thursday, December 15, 2016

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - The chairwoman of the Vermont Judicial Nominating Board said Thursday the panel has sent the names of six people to Gov. Peter Shumlin for consideration for a soon-to-be open position on the state Supreme Court - a job that opens nearly three months after the Democrat leaves office.

Board Chairwoman Margaret Flory, who’s also a Republican state senator from Rutland County, said her preference would be for Shumlin to hold off on making an appointment and let Republican Gov.-elect Phil Scott do so after he takes office Jan. 5. She added that the 11-member panel she chairs had taken no position on the question.

Associate Justice John Dooley III made known his intention to retire in late March when his term expires. He was appointed by Gov. Madeleine Kunin in 1987.

Shumlin spokesman Scott Coriell said the incumbent expects to make an appointment before he leaves office Jan. 5.

Both Coriell and Flory said Dooley’s decision not to seek a new term set the wheels in motion for the Judicial Nominating Board to meet and review applications from people seeking to replace the justice. Flory said she knew of no previous instance in which a search for a justice began before a governor left, with the job to be filled afterward.

On Wednesday, a day before giving Shumlin the names, Flory said, “It’s my hope that he has rethought the situation, and it’s my hope … he may decide he doesn’t have time to do interviews.”

Shumlin spokesman Scott Coriell said the governor “is pleased that the process is moving forward. He looks forward to reviewing the names being sent by the board, conducting interviews in the coming weeks and appointing a new Supreme Court justice before he leaves office in January.”

Scott spokesman Ethan Latour said Shumlin is within his rights. “We acknowledge it’s within his jurisdiction,” Latour said. He also said, “We think it’s unfortunate that Gov. Shumlin has decided to move forward with this.”

Coriell argued Shumlin is justified in making the appointment. “As a practical matter, the statute says that the nominating board “shall” initiate the process and send names to the governor. This governor is planning to continue doing his job until January 5. Part of that job is naming a new Supreme Court justice.”

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