MONTPELIER — The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee has voted 10-9 to approve the historic nomination of Vermont Supreme Court Associate Justice Beth Robinson to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York City.

Robinson’s nomination now goes to the full Senate for consideration for the lifetime appointment. No date has been set.

The 10-9 committee vote was along party lines with Democrats, including U.S. Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., approving the nomination. Democrat Dianne Feinstein of California passed on the vote on Thursday and subsequent attempts to get a comment from her Washington, D.C., office were unsuccessful.

The nine objections were all Republicans from the 22-member committee. Republicans Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Thom Tillis also passed on the committee vote, according to Leahy’s senior spokesman, David Carle.

Robinson, 56, is the first openly gay Vermont Supreme Court justice and, if confirmed, will be the first openly LGBTQ woman to serve on a federal appeals court. She has been on the Vermont Supreme Court since 2011. Robinson had served for 11 months as the legal counsel for Gov. Peter Shumlin in 2011 when he was sworn in.

Robinson, of Ferrisburgh, also was an associate and partner with the law firm of Langrock, Sperry & Wool in Middlebury for 17 years.

She would be the permanent replacement for the late Appeals Judge Peter Hall of Chittenden, who had served for 17 years. Hall, a former U.S. Attorney in Vermont, had said in March he would move from active to “Senior Status” on the appeals court to reduce his workload. A week later Hall died from cancer at Rutland Medical Center.

The 13-member appeals panel hears cases from federal courts in Vermont, Connecticut and New York. Tradition has allowed Vermont one designated seat on the appeals panel through the years.

Leahy, a former chair of the Judiciary Committee, had recommended Robinson to President Joe Biden. Robinson was grilled during a committee hearing five weeks ago.

Over the past few months there has been an outpouring of support from Vermonters across the political spectrum commending Biden on Robinson’s nomination and urging the committee’s support, Leahy said.

“Justice Robinson’s support includes elected officials from both sides of the aisle, the entire Vermont Supreme Court bench, former Vermont Supreme Court Justices, former U.S. Attorneys, and the Vermont Bar Association, just to name a few. I know I speak for many Vermonters, Republicans and Democrats, when I say how proud we are that she will be representing our state on the Second Circuit,” Leahy said in his prepared statement.

Robinson is a graduate of Dartmouth College in 1986 and the University of Chicago Law School in 1989. She spent the beginning part of her legal career defending workers’ rights and advancing discrimination cases, Leahy said. He said she successfully litigated the landmark decision of Baker v. Vermont, which led to Vermont becoming the first state to enact civil unions in the country.

“Her tireless advocacy served as a blueprint for LGBTQ advocacy across the country. It is no exaggeration to say that Justice Robinson changed the trajectory of LGBTQ rights in this country, and bent the arc of our nation’s history toward justice,” he said.

He noted she had bipartisan support when unanimously confirmed by the Vermont Senate to serve on the state Supreme Court. For the past decade, she has participated in nearly 1,800 decisions.

Her tenure has been a display of fairness, impartiality, and commitment to the rule of law, Leahy said. He said he hopes the full Senate will swiftly consider her nomination.

You must be logged in to react.
Click any reaction to login.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.