- Associated Press - Friday, December 23, 2016

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - The Vermont Supreme Court is blocking outgoing Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin from picking a successor for a court member who retires in March - at least until a Jan. 3 hearing on the matter.

Shumlin, who leaves office Jan. 5, was expected to announce an appointment before the new year. Republicans want GOP Gov.-elect Phil Scott to make the pick.

Shumlin spokesman Scott Coriell said in an email after Friday’s court order, “The governor has been following the law.” He referred questions to the attorney general’s office.

Last week, Coriell said state law allows the outgoing governor to choose a successor for Associate Justice John Dooley, who joined the court in 1987 and declined to apply for another term by the September deadline.

State Rep. Donald Turner, the Republican leader in the Vermont House, went to court to challenge Shumlin’s authority to make the appointment. Turner did not immediately reply to a message left on his cell phone voicemail.

The court’s one-paragraph order said Turner had “filed a petition for extraordinary relief challenging the authority of respondent, Governor Peter Shumlin, to fill an opening on this Court that is not expected to be realized until April 2017, after (Shumlin) leaves office.”

The court ordered Shumlin to hold off on making a selection and said the sides should file legal papers by Dec. 30 - next Friday. It said it would hold a hearing the following Tuesday, two days before Shumlin’s term is up.

The court asked lawyers in the case to opine on whether Turner has standing, or the legal right, to bring the petition.

Shumlin’s push to make the appointment for a job that opens nearly three months after he leaves office also has drawn fire from the chairwoman of the panel that recommends judges and justices for Vermont’s judiciary.

On Dec. 14, Judicial Nominating Board Chairwoman Margaret Flory, who also is a Republican state senator, said she was not speaking for the board but that as an individual she hoped Shumlin would defer to Scott.

“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,” Flory said.

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