Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Congratulations to Beth Mann and Dave Fenster!

Governor Shumlin swore in, as Superior Court judges, both former VBA President and Addison County State’s Attorney, David Fenster and VBA Member and Rutland practitioner, Elizabeth Mann at the Statehouse in Montpelier today.  Shumlin remarked that Mann and Fenster were chosen because of their grace, dignity, compassion, commitment to the law and good judgment.  He noted that dispensing justice is “more than just being a really, really good lawyer” but that other qualities are shown in how these two attorneys live their lives. 

Governor Shumlin said that both Fenster and Mann “get the rest of it,” that people come into court facing real struggles and that the lives of the litigants matter.  The Governor said: “Dispensing justice doesn’t mean that you are powerful; it means that you care.”   His speech was followed by brief and touching expressions of gratitude by both Mann and Fenster, the official administration of oath and signing by the new judges.  Photos were taken and a brief opportunity for questions was given to the press by the Governor. 

The ceremony was attended by many judges and court staff as well as family, colleagues and friends of both Mann and Fenster.  Beth Mann’s parents, husband and two sons attended, all appearing emotional, as were we all, during her beautiful speech.  Dave Fenster’s parents, step-parents, wife and daughter and son were also all in attendance and were thanked profusely.  Some levity was added when Dave’s wife’s shoe became lodged in the ventilation grate, which she handled with grace, and when the Governor’s pen (from “the bottom of the box” due to the end of his tenure) failed to operate properly, and several replacements were offered. 

Read on for pictures of the event, the guests, and the shoe and pen incidents!

Judges Toor, Teachout and Hoar awaiting the ceremony.

Governor Shumlin greets Fenster's son with Mann's son in the background.

Coworkers and family of Fenster and Mann watching the ceremony, with VBA President Mike Kennedy in attendance.

Beth Mann giving her touching speech.

Dave Fenster giving his thank you speech.

Beth Mann being sworn in with her family behind her.

Dave Fenster being sworn in with his family behind him.

Just prior to the swearing in, the Governor reacts to the shoe-eating grate!

The point where the pen ran out...

The Governor posed for pictures with both families (after noting that the room was "not iphone friendly"), with reporters blocking, we only obtained this fine iphone photo of the Judge Fenster contingent.

All smiles as judges gather, presumably planning "new guy" responsibilities, post-ceremony!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Session's Greetings!

What do this week’s snowy Vermont capitol scenes remind you of?  The holidays? Shoveling? The joy and privilege of being able to call beautiful Vermont home?

For Bob Paolini, we’d venture to say they remind him that January 4, 2017 is just around the corner! As most of our members are probably aware, we’ve contracted with Bob Paolini, former Executive Director of the VBA, to be our Governmental Relations guru for the next two years.  We are extremely fortunate to have Bob as our eyes, ears and voice at the capitol during the upcoming legislative session.

Why is his presence so important? During the legislative session, Bob is certainly active at the state house, either testifying, putting people in touch with each other to find common ground, finding lawyers to testify or merely being the proverbial fly on the wall.  If there is proposed legislation that has even a whiff of a potential effect on the practice of law, Bob is quick to alert concerned members, whichever ‘side’ they may be on.  Some issues are major, like the proposal to tax legal services or proposed cuts to the funding of the judiciary.  Some may seem minor, like choosing individuals to serve on study or rules committees, assessing incremental fee hikes or reviewing form changes.  No matter the issue, if it affects a member’s practice of law, Bob is there to make sure the VBA member’s voice is heard.  Having a seat at the table is a crucial and often silent benefit that the VBA provides to its members.  And as everyone knows, if you aren’t given a seat at the table, you just might be on the menu!

In anticipation of January 4, 2017, Bob has already reached out to the VBA Section Chairs to ask whether there are Sections working on or ready to propose any legislation in the next two years.  He is already aware of a few bills with respect to decedents’ estates, the nonprofit statute and alimony.  His letter was a reminder that if any proposals need VBA Board of Managers’ approval or if any proposals needs sponsors, the process needs to start NOW! 

We at the VBA, in conjunction with the courts and county bars, have already convened legislator days in nearly every county, to give the legislators a chance to see court hearings and to meet with local attorneys to get acquainted and share stories. Please feel free to contact Bob directly or the VBA with your proposed legislation, concerns or proposals.

Bob will continue to blog the happenings at the State house on his VBA Legislative Blawg, linked on our website (as and can be reached at bob at bobpaolini dot com.

Thursday, December 8, 2016


Let me start by saying I do not own stock in, nor do I know anyone in the upper echelon of Amazon.  I don’t really know how they fare politically or environmentally, I just know that I love them. Or, rather, I love using the site.  In my house, Amazon is a verb, as in, just Amazon that stuff (G-rated version)!

Some may say the ease of the site makes shopping dangerous. Oh, I MUST have that silicone Mana-Tea manatee tea diffuser! How could I live without it? But I maintain, living in rural Vermont, that it can be safer, more convenient and often, dare I say, faster to order that _____ (fill in the blank: pen, frame, fabric glue, gift) not available at the local store by Amazoning it.  Also, you avoid the risk of filling your physical cart with 20 other unwanted items you see at the store by just ordering that one thing on Amazon prime with no shipping costs. And no travel time or gas! Now, I still endeavor to shop locally where possible, but sometimes Amazon is the way to go and the below tip may lessen any guilt you may feel when using the site.

What does this have to do with the VBA blawg? Well, with the not-so-grueling effort of typing in just SIX extra characters, you can make a difference! Before ordering your gifts, household items, etc. this holiday season, just type in those 6 characters: “S, M, I, L, E, .” before Amazon and you will automatically be making a donation to the Vermont Bar Foundation with your purchase at no extra cost to you! By using, Amazon will donate a small percentage of each purchase to the Vermont Bar Foundation.  All you have to do is choose the VBF as your charity, as a one-time effort, and the VBF will always be your recipient. Also, next time you use Amazon, you should automatically be signed in, especially if you use as your bookmark.   

For more smiles, check out the newly redesigned VBF website at  The website shares some of the amazing stories about how the VBF grants make a difference in the lives of Vermonters.  It also encourages you to donate what you can to support their important work.  Reading the touching stories will certainly put a smile on your face, and donating will spread that smile across Vermont. Donating at no extra cost to you is a smile-smile, win-win for everyone!