Vermont Bar Journal, Vol. 40, No. 2 Fall 2015, Vol 41, No. 3 - Page 15

The role of lay persons within the judicial system has eroded over time. Today jury trials are rare. More rarely, grand juries are summoned. Gone is the court of inquest, the justice of the peace jury, and qui tam suits that once allowed citizens to enforce the civil law and enjoy the benefit of all or a portion of the penalty set in statute.60 Assistant judges sit in the civil and family divisions of the superior court, and perform other valuable functions in the court system, contributing their experience and wisdom, although few are lawyers. The lay influence is from the other side of the bench, as a growing number of pro se litigants are appearing in court today. As the courts have become more professional over time, the judicial system has become more protective of rights. The early inquest was not concerned with that. Someone died. A jury of citizens was chosen, who viewed the body, took evidence, and made a ruling, often naming the killer. Sometimes they called it murder, a judgment beyond their authority. ____________________ Paul S. Gillies, Esq., is a partner in the Montpelier firm of Tarrant, Gillies & Richardson and is a regular contributor to the Vermont Bar Journal. A collection of his columns has been published under the title of Uncommon Law, Ancient Roads, and Other Ruminations on Vermont Legal History by the Vermont Historical Society. ____________________ 13 V.S.A. Chapter 161: Inquests as to Criminal Matters. 2 Smith v. Burnham, 1 Aik. 84 (1826). 3 Town of Manchester v. Town of Rupert, 6 Vt. 291 (1834). 4 Gilman v. Thompson, 11 Vt. 643 (1839). 5 1 Records of the Vermont Governor and Council 332-336 (E.P. Walton ed., 1873). 6 Rev. F.J. Fairbanks, Westminster, in Abby Maria Hemenway, Vermont Historical Gazetteer 575 (1891); Rowland Robinson, Vermont: A Study of Independence 96 (1892); Frank Lester Greene, Vermont, the Green Mountain State: Past, Present, Prospective 7 (1907); 1 Governor and Council supra note 5, at 330. 7 Jessie Haas, Revolutionary Westminster: From Massacre to Statehood (2011). 8 Benjamin H. Hall, History of Eastern Vermont 752 (1858). 9 Id., 225, 675; Timothy Olcutt was county coroner. Hass, supra note 7, at 71. 10 Philip Barnard, Mark Kamrath, & Stephen Shapiro, Revising Charles Brockden Brown: Culture, Politics, and Sexuality in the Early Republic 326 (2004). 11 The full report can be downloaded at http:// The_historical_ violence_database_A_collaborative_research_project_on_the_history_of_violent_crime_violent_death_and_collective_violence. 12 Id. As each of the following synopses are found in the database, excessive, repetitive footnotes are elided. 13 Farmer’s Museum, May 5, 1800. 14 Rutland Herald, Dec. 17, 1804, Jan. 5, 1805; 1 =deborah+ mckirkland&btnG=Search+Books&tbm=bks&tb o=1#tbm=bks&q=deborah+mckirkland+vermo nt+1804. 15 Rutland Herald, Sept. 21, 1805. 16 Hemenway, supra note 6, at 294. 17 Windham County Superior Court 2: 235). 18 Norman Williams Correspondence, Vermont Historical Society; Henry Hobart Vail, Pomfret, Vermont (1930). 19 Caledonia County Superior Court 3: 271. 20 Gary Shattuck, Insurrection, Corruption & Murder in Early Vermont 312-314 (2014). 21 Farmer’s Cabinet, Dec. 4, 1813. 22 L.L. Dutcher, The History of St. Albans, Vt. 294-295 (1872). 23 Hemenway, supra note 6, at 294-296. 24 Vermont Mirror, June 7 and July 12, 1815; Rutland Herald, Nov. 7, 1820. 25 New Hampshire Patriot, July 12, 1824. 26 Rutland Herald, June 29, 1824. 27 Bertha B. Hanson, Bertha’s Book: A View of Starksboro’s History 51-52 (1998). 28 Rutland Herald, Oct. 9, 1839. 29 Rutland County Superior Court Records, 27:129. 30 Burlington Free Press, Oct. 1, 1841. 31 Burlington Free Press, Nov. 18, 1842. 32 L.L. Dutcher, supra note 22, at 300-301. 33 “An act concerning sudden and untimely deaths,” Feb. 20, 1779, 12 State Papers of Vermont 108. 34 “An act concerning sudden and untimely deaths,” Feb. 27, 1787, 14 State Papers of Vermont 175-176. 35 “An act, directing the mode of taking inquisition on the body of a person found dead, by casualty or violence,” Laws of Vermont of a Publick and Permanent Nature, Chap. XXXV, 275-278 (1825). 36 “An act, directing the mode of taking inquisition on the body of a person found dead, by casualty or violence,” Laws of Vermont of a Publick and Permanent