A call for justice and ethics in Vermont
I am the mother of one and the grandmother of two. In the 1970's I founded an organization, Justice for Children. I have spent much time in courtrooms and have been a citizen advocate for decades. I am a member of Veterans for Peace, Chapter 88. I am a writer and many of my articles are available on the Internet.
I am one of the Bennington Twelve. We were arrested in a peaceful protest of the war on March 20, 2003. Just for the record, my Act of Conscience consisted of standing in silence, with my head bowed, while holding a sign. It is important to note that my acceptance of the nomination of Vermont Attorney General has absolutely nothing to do with the issue of war and peace. That issue is a significant part of my life, but totally irrelevant to the problems that exist in the attorney general’s office.
The odds against any candidate who is not either a Democrat or Republican are insurmountable, but I believe that support of third parties is important. I have accepted NO campaign contributions. I owe NO political favors.
My global view includes a deep respect for the law. The most important qualification for the office of attorney general is an absolute, unwavering commitment to Justice for all, young and old, rich and poor ... no politics, no cronyism, and no excuses.
It is the attorney general’s office that is the gateway to justice, not only in criminal matters but also in civil cases. When a citizen is injured or killed by the state, it is the office of the attorney general that represents the government and opposes the injured citizen in court. In 1990 the Vermont legislature dropped insurance on state dump trucks, snowplow vehicles, and state cars. "Self insurance" by the government places an unreasonable burden on the injured. Any injured citizen is now up against the full force of the government. No citizen can equal the State with its tons of money, teams of lawyers, and access to the bought-and-paid-for testimony of "expert witnesses". In Vermont courts, it is too often money, not the facts, that determines the outcome of the case. Every citizen is at risk. Many people believe that "it" can't happen to them — until it does.
How many citizens have had disputes with the government about a highway going through their dining room, or an airport runway going through their yard? How many have had problems with toxins in the workplace?
There are lingering questions about the shooting in the Brattleboro church. Robert Woodward was shot to death by the police. Many believe that Woody and his family never received justice.
Some suggestions for improving the Office of the Attorney General include:
- Change the culture in the attorney general's office. A strict code of ethics is called for. All citizens are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect. An independent investigation is needed to determine if the office of the attorney general has used inappropriate tactics, such as threats, suppression of evidence, and witness intimidation against citizens.
- The common practice of paying for testimony during a trial should be discouraged. Jurors should be told when testimony is purchased and they should be told how much was paid to the "expert witnesses" for their testimony.
- An official blog should be set up so that citizens could exchange information when they have a problem with the state. For those without computers a toll-free phone line should be set up. An independent, non-political Office of Citizen Advocate should be authorized. It should be paid for out of the budget of the attorney general. No new taxpayer funds are necessary.
- A committee comprised of farmers, plumbers, factory workers, teachers, retail workers, etc. is needed. This committee would act as a citizen watchdog group and oversee the policies of the office of the attorney general.
- The mission of the attorney general’s office should be the pursuit of justice. The policy of "winning" court cases against injured citizens should be ended. It wastes precious court time. It also wastes taxpayer money. In some legal cases when the government causes injury there are gray areas, but if there is a dead body or a citizen on a gurney in a hospital, the legitimate claim should just be paid. No long, expensive, tortuous legal battle should be necessary.
I ask only that each voter talk with a friend or neighbor who has dealt with the Office of the Attorney General and then vote his or her conscience on Election Day.