Did you know that Vermont courts are closed one day each month? I didn’t. That is, I didn’t until I drove the better part of an hour to a probate district court to retrieve some probate files that a client wanted right away. The sun was shining warmly on my drive to the courthouse, and all was right with my world. I looked forward to smelling that old book smell, something I miss when I research from my computer. I should have noticed something was amiss when I was able to park right in front of the door, but that detail escaped me. As I unsuccessfully tried to turn the courthouse door handle, I noticed the sign on the door. “Public Notice: To meet the cuts to the Judiciary’s budget, the Supreme Court has decided to close the courts on the following days.” Yup. April 20 was the day the court was closed for this month. Just my luck. The one day I rearranged my schedule to make this research trip to accommodate a client, and the courthouse is closed. When I make a research trip to another state, I usually call ahead to a repository and make sure there aren’t any local holidays that I am not aware of. But in my own state, this didn’t occur to me. I knew (or thought I knew) the courts are open Monday through Friday, 8:00-4:30.
The court furlough days might have been news to me, but it looks like they have been around in one form or another for a couple of years. I’ve just never noticed them before. The statutes, administrative directives, and list of furlough days for 2012 can be found here. Budget constraints drove the establishment of these furlough days. The 12 days the court system shuts down have reportedly saved Vermont taxpayers over a million dollars.1 There is hope that the furlough days may be coming to an end, though. A Burlington Free Press article recently reported that the budget passed by the Vermont House for fiscal year 2013 included funding sufficient to keep the courts open full time. That means the last furlough day might occur this June. Let’s hope the Senate does the same, and the employee salary negotiations are successful in reaching an agreement that provides a fair salary while preserving the funding budgeted to keep the courts open. In the meantime, if you are planning to do some research at a Vermont courthouse, make sure to check that you aren’t going on a furlough day. I’m not about to forget that any time soon.
- Dave Gram, “Vermont House OKs Budget Ending Courthouse Shutdowns,” Burlington Free Press, Vermont, 23 March 2012, online edition (http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/article/20120323/NEWS03/120323035/Vermont-House-OKs-budget-ending-courthouse-shutdowns : accessed 21 April 2012). ↩