Vermont Bar Journal, Vol. 40, No. 2 Vermont Bar Journal, Spring 2017, Volume 43, No. 1 - Page 30

by Stephen D. Kelson, Esq. A Look at Violence Against the Vermont Legal Profession Violence is an increasingly concerning is- sue in our country where even the legal pro- fession has been affected. Throughout 2015 and 2016, national media groups report- ed a number of sensational acts of violence against the legal profession. For example, in Indiana, a family law attorney was targeted, in an alleged murder plot, by a mother and son with a syringe containing a lethal dose of an- esthetic succinylcholine. In Michigan, an in- mate facing sexual assault charges attempt- ed to stab an assistant prosecutor in court with a shank. In Mississippi, an attorney was shot and killed during a deposition. In Okla- homa, an attorney, in self-defense, shot and killed a client who attacked him. In Alabama, a city attorney while at his office was shot in the chest. Also in Alabama, two people were killed in a shooting at an attorney’s office. In Delaware, a man attempted to hire an un- dercover detective to kill his former defense counsel and a prosecutor. In Texas, a judge was ambushed and shot in front of her home. In Florida, two men were allegedly enlisted to kill a Florida State University law professor. At first glance, the number of threats and violence reported by the media against the legal profession might suggest that such inci- dents are unique and extremely rare. Howev- er, contrary to the general perception, many members of the legal profession, including members of the Vermont legal profession, experience threats of violence and actual vio- lence arising from the practice of law. To better evaluate and understand the degree of threats and violence against at- torneys at the state level, from March 28, 2016 through May 19, 2016, all active, in- state members of the Vermont legal profes- sion were invited to participate in an on-line survey regarding violence and threats of vio- lence they have experienced in the practice of law. This article provides a brief summary of the responses to the 2016 survey (the “Sur- vey”) and a glimpse into work-related threats and violence experienced, but seldom dis- cussed, by members of the Vermont legal profession. Statewide Studies of Violence Against the Legal Profession To date, twenty-five statewide surveys have been conducted regarding violence against the legal profession. The results provide a rare insight into the nature and frequen- cy of work-related threats and violence ex- perienced by the legal profession, the over- whelming majority of which have never been publically reported. 30 Year 2006 2008 2012 2012 2012 2013 2013 2013 2013 2013 2014 2014 2014 2014 2015 2015 2015 2015 2015 2015 2015 2015 2016 2016 2016 Table 1: Statewide Surveys of Violence and Threats of Violence Against Attorneys In-State % In-State Threats/ % State Membership Responses Membership Violence Respondents Utah 6,832 904 13.2 417 46.1 Idaho 3,627 780 21.5 319 40.9 Nevada 8,245 1,039 12.6 412 40.0 Wyoming 1,639 467 28.5 211 46.0 Oregon 13,916 1,862 13.4 684 36.7 New 6,170 919 14.9 369 40.0 Mexico Arizona 17,383 1,841 10.6 777 42.2 Iowa 7,329 1,333 18.2 547 41.0 N. Carolina 21,856 2,251 10.3 732 32.5 Kansas 8,177 1,185 14.5 480 40.5 Nebraska 4,937 286 6.8 101 35.3 Michigan 35,824 4,219 11.8 1,529 36.2 Mississippi 7,048 422 6.0 195 46.2 N. Dakota 1,663 243 14.6 113 46.5 Louisiana 22,257 1,577 7.1 576 36.5 Rhode 4,454 293 6.6 104 35.5 Island Hawaii 4,122 356 8.6 134 37.6 Alaska 2,444 471 19.3 195 41.4 Alabama 14,509 1,088 7.5 440 40.4 Washington 25,678 1,720 6.6 756 44.0 Delaware 2,952 225 7.6 87 38.7 Montana 3,247 403 12.4 169 41.9 S. Carolina 12,236 839 6.9 379 45.2 Colorado 21,739 1,255 5.8 589 46.9 Vermont 2,213 240 10.9 106 44.2 Acts of violence reported by attorneys in these state surveys include numerous shoot- ings, stabbings, assaults and batteries, as well as vandalism to attorneys’ businesses and per- sonal property. Numerous threats of violence include stalking, phone calls, written letters, emails, texts, on-line posts, verbal threats of physical violence and death threats, and even attempts to hire “hit men” to kill attorneys and judges. The results of each of these state surveys show that violence and threats of vi- olence against members of the legal profes- sion are much more prevalent than report- ed by the media or commonly perceived by practitioners. The Survey of Violence against the Vermont Legal Profession The Survey was conducted independent- ly by the author, using an email list created from alternative sources, and administe