Spring 2009 - #3. Interview with Honorable Doris S. Buchanan.

Author:by Hon. George K. Belcher

Vermont Bar Journal


Spring 2009 - #3.

Interview with Honorable Doris S. Buchanan


Interview with Honorable Doris S. Buchananby Hon. George K. Belcher

The following interview was conducted on January 21, 2009, in Bennington, Vermont, in advance of Judge Buchanan's retirement on January 31, 2009, after fifty years with the Vermont Judiciary. Judge Buchanan has been the probate judge for the Bennington District Probate Court since February 1, 1991. Q. Judge Buchanan, can you tell me where you were born?

A. Right here in Bennington.

Q. And did you grow up here in Bennington?

A. Yes.

Q. You graduated from high school here?

A. Yes.

Q. So you've known and worked with many of your high school classmates over the years.

A. Yes. As a matter of fact, I just married one of my high school classmates.

Q. Yes. I wanted to congratulate you on your recent wedding.

A. Thank you. He is from that era.

Q. After you graduated from high school did you have some jobs that were not in the court system?

A. Yes. When I first graduated from high school, there used to be a plant on Benmont Avenue called Benmont Papers. I worked in the secretarial pool there. I got married and, in between having a few children and taking some time off . . . and then I left that job and went to what is now T.D. Banknorth. I worked in there for a year, when my former teacher in high school, who had taught me shorthand, approached me and told me a new judge had been named in Bennington. At that time it was a municipal judge, and he was looking for a court stenographer. I said, "Well I can't do that." She said, "I think you can." So I went to an interview and I got the job. I held it until it became Bennington District Court. So when I started with the Bennington Municipal Court as a stenographer, it was in 1959. It became district court in 1968 and that's when I became clerk of the court, but actually all those years that I was stenographer I was doing mostly clerk's work anyway. You weren't in the courtroom all the time.

Q. What was the name of the municipal judge who hired you?

A. My first Judge was Eugene Clark. He still lives here in Bennington. A nice gentleman . . . a wonderful person to work with. He subsequently retired to become a state senator. So the governor appointed a lawyer by the name of Waldo Holden to finish out his term. There were only about five-and-a-half months left in that term and he assumed that he would be named to continue, but suddenly Vermont went Democratic and it was a Republican governor who had appointed Judge Holden. So that left him out in the cold. The governor appointed George Fineberg. He was judge in the court for many years. Then, when it became district court, John Morrissey became the judge. I worked for him for quite some time. Judge Morrissey was then elevated to the superior court so George Fineberg came back as district court judge. I worked with him as district court judge and with many of the other judges as they rotated. I worked with Ron Kilburn, Paul Hudson, Francis McCaffrey, Bob Grussing, and the other judges who would be assigned to southern Vermont.

Q. Back to the municipal court, you were the stenographer, which means that you were taking the testimony by shorthand.

A. Yes, that was before they had stenotype machines so it was all by shorthand.

Q. Was that hard to do?

A. At first I did not think I could keep up with it, but after awhile it just got to be routine.

Q. So you were in court during those days.

A. I was in the courtroom a lot.

Q. And the jurisdiction of municipal court was misdemeanor criminal matters?

A. Yes, felonies had to go to county court.

Q. And civil matters?

A. Yes I think civil matters under $5,000.00 were in municipal court. And small claims, they were way down there. You're really testing my memory. . .

Q. And evictions, were they in municipal court?

A. No. Evictions were in district court, not in municipal court.

Q. So with civil and misdemeanor matters . . .

A. And juvenile matters too . . .

Q. In municipal court?

A. Yes.

Q. Abuse and neglect cases?

A. Right.

Q. You must have seen quite a bit of heavy court action.

A. Yes. I remember one was a case of a very prominent citizen who had adopted these two children and the state was trying to take them away from them...

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