Leahy Recommends Vermont Judge Christina Reiss For Vermont’s U.S. District Court Vacancy

WEDNESDAY – U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Thursday recommended Vermont State Judge Christina Reiss of Essex Junction, Vt., to be the next judge on Vermont’s U.S. District Court. 

If nominated by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate, Reiss would be the first woman to serve on Vermont’s federal district court.  She would fill the vacancy created when Judge J. Garvan Murtha announced his intention to take senior status on Vermont’s U.S. District Court, opening the first such vacancy in Vermont in several years.

Reiss was appointed as a state judge in 2004 by Governor Jim Douglas (R), after having been a partner in two Vermont law firms.   Her selection is the product of screenings conducted by Vermont’s Judicial Nominating Commission, whose members were appointed by Leahy, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and the Vermont Bar Association.  U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) also had input during the selection process.  Of the many applications received, the 9-member nonpartisan panel interviewed and vetted eight finalists, then recommended four to Leahy for consideration.  By longstanding practice the senior senator of the President’s party recommends candidates for judicial vacancies to the President.  Leahy is Vermont’s senior senator and also chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, which first considers judicial nominations in the Senate.

Leahy said, “The breadth and depth of the field of applicants is a credit to our state and our legal community.  The Commission did a superb job, and I thank them for their service.

“Judge Reiss is known for her strong intellect, diligence, and well-reasoned decisions.  She has considerable criminal and civil experience.  Before she was nominated to the state trial bench by Governor Douglas and confirmed unanimously, she had a successful private practice for more than a decade.  She demonstrated in the interviews that she could relate to litigants of many backgrounds and that she has a keen understanding of the powerful role a judge plays in the lives of litigants who appear before her.  She acknowledged how important it is for judges to possess humility and an understanding of the effects that legal rulings have on people’s lives. 

“Judge Reiss has served for more than four years on the state trial bench in Vermont.  She has earned an excellent reputation among the advocates who have appeared before her, as well as among courthouse staff.  As a testament to her reputation among her fellow judges, she was recently selected to be the presiding judge in Vermont’s busiest state courthouse this September.  I hope that, instead, she will be headed to the federal courthouse in Rutland, Vermont, to serve as a United States District Court judge.”

Leahy had joined the late Senator Robert Stafford (R-Vt.) in putting together a merit commission for an earlier Vermont judicial vacancy, and Leahy also followed that practice since becoming Vermont’s senior senator.  Merit commissions are not required, but Leahy said they work well in finding qualified candidates who are grounded by their experience in their communities.  “The merit commission model is a good fit for our approach to government in Vermont,” he said, noting that on the Judiciary Committee it is also helpful when the chairman sets a constructive example like this for other senators and other states. 

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