NORTH HERO, Vt. – State’s Attorney Douglas DiSabito says limiting operations at the Grand Isle County Courthouse to two days a week is not only inconvenient for county residents, but a violation of Vermont’s judicial rules.
In a press release, DiSabito said the state’s Rules of Civil Procedure require county courthouses be open during business hours everyday except Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays.
The Grand Isle County Courthouse has been operating Tuesday and Thursday only since early August due to security staffing issues. DiSabito said he warned the Vermont Supreme Court months ago that the Grand Isle County Sheriff’s Department might be unable to continue providing security at the Courthouse.
“We have e-mails that they knew as early as April that this might be an issue, and I submit that they did not plan properly for this, and as a result, instead of replacing security they just closed the court,” DiSabito said.
DiSabito said responsibility for adequately staffing the state’s courthouses rests with the Vermont Supreme Court.
“By not having the Grand Isle Courthouse open during business hours each weekday—with either the clerk or her deputy “in attendance” in her office—the State’s Attorney submits that the Court Administrator is in violation of Rule 77 by shuttering the Grand Isle Courthouse every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday,” Sabito said in the release.
Chief Superior Court Judge Brian Grearson acknowledged courthouse security is an issue in several Vermont counties, but it’s not being ignored.
“We understand his concerns with the courthose doors not being open, and we’re working towards a solution,” Grearson said. “I am hopeful we will have at least an interim step in the near future. It’s not that we’ve given up on this, we continue to work on it every day.”
DiSabito is particularly concerned that the Courthouse’s limited schedule means cases that require immediate attention won’t be heard in a timely manner.
“Say for instance you’re a victim of domestic abuse and you need to get a restraining order or relief from abuse order, and you come to the courthouse and you see a sign on the door that says we’re closed, call this number,” DiSabito said.
And in fact, he tried calling that number to see if Grand Isle residents would be able to get help quickly when they need it.
“The recording said you’ve reached the Franklin Criminal and Family Division, please call back,” DiSabito said. “This is not how justice is supposed to be accessed or administered.”