Yesterday, December 7, at approximately 10:20 am, I stood before the five Justices of the Vermont Supreme Court, raised my right hand and took an oath to support, protect and defend the United States and Vermont Constitutions.
It was a heady moment for me and the other 50 new attorneys taking that oath. I think it will take a few days for the reality to sink in: after four years of study, apprenticeship and other forms of agony, I now have a license to practice law in the most civilized state in the union!
That morning, the would-be attorneys gathered in the basement of the Vermont Supreme Court building to register, receive our licenses and certificates, and get organized. As the time approached, we were asked to line up alphabetically–it was a testament to our nerves, I suspect, that in spite of all our fancy educations, it proved strangely difficult to accomplish that basic task.
Then, a hush fell over us as we walked upstairs to the historic court room. (I ended up with the best seat in the house–right in the front row–as I was last alphabetically, but we had come in reverse order!)
The court room was packed, to standing room only, with the family and friends of those taking the oath. In one corner was Edward, my mom, and friends from my little town of Guildhall. In another corner were a couple of my Act 250 colleagues. Among the crowd in the third corner was the fantastic criminal defense attorney David Williams, my mentor and colleague over the last three years with his wife Karen Andresen.
I couldn’t help but get a shiver down my spine when I took the oath to protect and defend the Constitution. And I couldn’t help but reflect on other interesting matters. For example, directly before me was Marilyn Skoglund, a Vermont Supreme Court justice who took the same path to the practice of law as I have: she did the Vermont Four Year Clerkship! (I am the only person sworn in yesterday who is a clerkship graduate!)
Even more interesting, and frankly moving, was the presence of the Court’s newest Associate Justice, the Honorable Beth Robinson. Justice Robinson has a long history as a tireless activist for civil unions and marriage equality in Vermont. When Governor Peter Shumlin took office last year, he appointed Beth Robinson as Governor’s Counsel, and this year, when Justice Denise Johnson retired, Shumlin took the fabulous and historic step of appointing Robinson to the Supreme Court. Just a week earlier, in this same room, she had been sworn in to the Court. And there she was, sitting before me. (Later, in the anteroom reception, we had a chance to talk briefly.)
From there, we moved on to a celebratory lunch, with champagne at NECI on Main. I’m grateful for all the friends and family who were there with me today.