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Rory Thibault 

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Vermont has been experiencing a summer of uncertainty — with many feeling that our core rights and values are on the line. Whether from a hostile federal judiciary eliminating fundamental rights, or here at home as we see an increase in gun violence, uneven progress on law enforcement accountability, and threats to our democratic processes and our environment.

It is clear that we do not have the luxury of time to sit and wait for another study committee or working group to provide recommendations – rather we need decisive action and leadership to face these challenges, including a proactive attorney general who has the experience, expertise, and drive to use every tool available to protect Vermonters and the values we hold dear.

The Supreme Court’s overturn of Roe v. Wade in June was just one of four precedent shattering decisions impacting Vermonters. The hard-right turn of the court has undermined reproductive rights, threatened our public education system and the separation of church and state, and has further inhibited regulatory responses to climate change. We need an attorney general who has the experience and skill to stand up in court, and fight back.

The rollback of fundamental rights can only be countered by the resolve of leaders and lawmakers in states like Vermont. Creative, timely, and aggressive action is critical in our ability to reclaim rights that have been lost and defend those under threat. We must zealously defend reproductive liberties and abortion access for Vermonters and others seeking access here and commit to do the same for the rights of LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC persons when courts look to backtrack on progress.

Beyond these federal challenges, we must also focus on achieving progress at home in Vermont –- including a commitment to the structural and policy reforms necessary to combat racial disparities in the criminal justice system, refocusing on harm reduction over incarceration in drug offenses, and enhancing law enforcement accountability. All of these efforts require an attorney general capable of leading and able to apply experiences in court and in the community to reform.

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Criminal justice reform entails challenging old assumptions, embracing data-driven solutions, and working toward a system that is fair to offenders, respectful to victims, and consistent with our values. Progress will be built on commitments to restorative practices, reduced incarceration, and processes that are trauma informed and victim centered.

We also must grow Vermont in a sustainable manner and be willing to enforce our environmental standards. Vermonters deserve clean air, clean water, and we must be bold on climate action — in court and at home.

Between life in Cabot, where my wife, Johanna, is co-owner of a small business, Harry’s Hardware, and where I serve on the school board, and my role as State’s Attorney in Washington County, I see firsthand the impacts of these big issues, as well as cost of living, uneven access to healthcare, and inequity in the education system — and how the legal system can help (or impair) Vermonters.

As an Army Judge Advocate (JAG) and public safety leader I know firsthand the value of leading from the front and taking a proactive approach to legal challenges — whether advocating in the courtroom or in Statehouse committee rooms. I’ve heard from Vermonters from Bennington to Brattleboro and back to St. Albans that we need leaders not only with vision, but the courage to act, and a commitment to transparency in responding to safety threats in our communities or in navigating the complexities of justice reform.

Vermont’s greatest asset is its people, and we need an attorney general who understands that and who is committed to zealously defending those who cannot stand up for themselves. We cannot afford to be complacent when it comes to safety in our schools and communities or the defense of fundamental rights — we must be proactive and responsive.

Rory Thibault is Washington County State’s Attorney. He is seeking the Democratic nomination for Attorney General. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Bennington Banner.


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