MONTPELIER -- Gov. Peter Shumlin announced Friday he was appointing Superior Court Judge Geoffrey Crawford to the Vermont Supreme Court.
"Geoff’s compassion and his years of experience as a trial judge, where he has served with a collegial attitude and well-regarded intellect, will make him a very strong addition to the Supreme Court," Shumlin said in a statement.
Crawford replaces Associate Justice Brian Burgess, who recently announced his retirement. Shumlin was expected to elevate someone with experience as a trial court judge to the five-member Supreme Court. Of the court’s four other jurists, only Marilyn Skoglund has previous experience as a trial judge.
"It is a joy and a great honor to serve in the Vermont judiciary with so many dedicated staff members and fellow judges all working together to ensure justice for Vermonters," Crawford said in a statement released by the governor’s office. "I am deeply grateful for this new opportunity."
An employee at the Superior Court for Franklin County in St. Albans, where Crawford had been sitting most recently, said Friday that the judge was away until Wednesday. A phone message left for a Geoffrey Crawford listed in Burlington, where the judge lives, was not immediately returned.
The appointment won praise from legal experts including Cheryl Hanna, a professor at the Vermont Law School and Daniel Richardson, a Montpelier lawyer and author of the SCOV Blog, which focuses on the Supreme Court of Vermont.
Hanna said she did not know Crawford personally, but watched him preside over the trial of Christopher Williams, who was convicted in a shooting spree in Essex in 2006. She said he came across as highly intelligent and compassionate.
"I was really impressed by the way he handled all those constituencies, all the pain that was in that room," she said.
Richardson said the court would be served well both by Crawford’s experience on the bench and as a trial lawyer.
As a Superior Court judge, Crawford has ruled in recent years in several high-profile cases involving alleged campaign finance law violations and public access to government records, among others.
In June 2011, he ruled against a Democratic-oriented political action committee, saying the group violated Vermont’s campaign laws by going beyond issue advocacy in its ads and openly criticizing the Republican gubernatorial candidate.
That October, Crawford ruled against the Republican Governors Association in a case stemming from the 2010 gubernatorial campaign. Attorney General William Sorrell said the RGA improperly failed to register as a political action committee and exceeded Vermont’s spending limits.
Crawford ruled for public disclosure in a case in which state officials were slow to release police video of an officer pulling over former state Auditor Thomas Salmon for drunken driving.
Crawford has been active as a volunteer with Vermont human services organizations.