June 2003 - #2. From the Executive Director Eye on the Statehouse.


Vermont Bar Journal


June 2003 - #2.

From the Executive Director Eye on the Statehouse

Vermont Bar Journal - June 2003

From the Executive Director Eye on the Statehouse

This is being written as the legislature enters its final days, so it is difficult to predict the outcome of the last five months. Will the environmental permit process change? Will a new judge be added to the environmental court? Will Vermont change the way it pays for education? Will the courts have the money to continue civil jury trials throughout the year? None of these questions can be answered today, yet by the time you read this, I hope they are.

What I am certain of now, however, is that we will not see an extension of the sales tax to professional services, including legal services. And part of the credit for that goes to all of you who responded to the VBA's request for your help in educating legislators on the downside of such a tax. Making legal services more expensive would only have resulted in more pro se litigation, making it more difficult for the courts to efficiently adjudicate cases. That, then, could have increased demands on you to do more pro bono and we would have begun a downward spiral in the delivery of legal services to our clients. Your communicating that message to your representatives and senators prevented that scenario from playing out. Thank you. A special note of thanks goes to the Franklin Grand Isle Bar Association for their interest and organized efforts on the issue. They really serve as a model of grassroots involvement in the administration of justice in Vermont.

Those of you who have been following our legislative reports will remember that it appeared that we were about to see the first increase in court filing fees in seven years. The fee structure of most departments of state government is reviewed every three years. That is not true for the judiciary. When the judicial branch needs to raise fees, it must go to the tax writing committees of the legislature and ask for permission to do so. H. 472 provided for some large increases. The fee increase package was the product of an agreement with the Governor's office to increase the judiciary's budget by $1.2 million if the fees brought in the revenue. In fact, the increased fees were expected to bring in about $300,000 more than was required.

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