Judge loses license over pot
By Susan Smallheer
Herald Staff | December 10,2008
MONTPELIER — A former part-time family court judge in White River Junction has lost her license to practice law for three months as a result of disciplinary action against her after state game wardens found more than two pounds of marijuana at her home last year.
Martha Davis, 62, of Windsor, will be on probation for a year, according to a disciplinary recommendation from the Professional Responsibility Board, which was first made public about a month ago but wasn't final until this week.
"While the mitigating factors are considerable, they are not sufficient to reduce the sanction to a reprimand," the panel stated, noting that the discipline was "consistent with prior Vermont disciplinary actions" against lawyers caught with illegal drugs.
Davis never faced formal criminal charges, as her case was referred to the court diversion program.
Davis, who told investigators for the Professional Responsibility Board that she smoked marijuana to alleviate pain from migraine headaches and another painful physical condition, had started using marijuana before her illness.
"We are also concerned that respondent's marijuana use is long-standing," the panel noted.
As a result, the panel recommended a long period — 12 months — of probation, which could be extended.
The drug and alcohol counselor will work with Davis on how to avoid using marijuana, the panel noted, and "learn how to deal with pain, stress and anxiety in other ways."
Davis had first called game wardens to her Windsor home in the fall of 2007, complaining of the smell of a dead deer. Instead, the game wardens were attracted by the pungent smell of marijuana, and found 36 small plants, evidence of marijuana cultivation and 2-1/2 pounds of marijuana.
According to the disciplinary report, Davis had 30 days to contest the recommended disciplinary action but let the discipline go into effect with no appeal.
Under the terms of the disciplinary report, Davis must immediately hire a drug and alcohol counselor who could order Davis to undergo spot drug testing at any time during the coming year.
The drug counselor could recommend that Davis stay on probation longer than the 12 months.
Davis, who is in private practice in Windsor, had served as a part-time family court judge. She was removed from that position shortly after her criminal case became public.
Davis' criminal charges were referred to the court diversion program, and Davis' disciplinary report stated she had successfully completed the conditions established by the court diversion board in January. As a result, Davis won't have a criminal record.
Windsor County State's Attorney Robert Sand, who made the decision to refer Davis' case to court diversion rather than prosecute her for felony possession of marijuana, had defended his decision noting that Davis had no criminal record and the fact that Davis stated the marijuana was for her own use.
The large amount of marijuana however prompted criticism of the handling of the case and, at one time, Gov. James Douglas told Vermont State Police not to refer marijuana cases to Sand's office, although he later rescinded his order after a similar case surfaced in Orange County and he hadn't criticized the handling of that case.
Contact Susan Smallheer at email@example.com.