Vermont Bar Journal, Vol. 40, No. 2 Vermont Bar Journal, Spring 2017, Volume 43, No. 1 - Page 31

The Survey’s chief question asked attor- neys if, while serving as a member of the Ver- mont legal profession, they had ever been the recipient of a threat or had been the vic- tim of a violent act. Of the 240 responses to this question, 106 (44.2 percent) of the respondents reported that they had been threatened and/or physically assaulted at least once. Respondents to the Survey provided more than 126 examples of work-related threats and violence perpetrated against them. Some examples of egregious threats and vio- lence reported by members of the Vermont legal profession include: • My personal residence was shotgunned. • Juvenile with multiple emotional/behav- ioral issues came to my office intoxicated and pulled out a gun. • Opposing injured litigant hit me with his crutch in a conference room in the court- house. • [A] criminal defendant followed me down the street and made verbal threats. Af- ter that, he followed me one night in his car on to [sic] a deserted interstate. • Pro se opposing party … hit me in the chin, put my hands behind my back and announced a citizen’s arrest…. • I received a voicemail where an oppos- ing client shot off a gun and then hung up. • Threats of death and serious bodily in- jury made by criminal defendants and their family, most often made by written and verbal communications. Occasion- ally the threats were made face to face. • [A client] followed me to my home and threatened me and scared me. • A client came to the office and told my secretary she was going to hit me with a baseball bat. As part of the Survey, respondents were asked to identify the area of law which com- prises the majority of their legal practice. Not surprisingly, a significant percentage of respondents who reported threats and vio- lence practice in the areas of criminal de- fense/prosecution (30.0 percent) and family law (17.9 percent). However, respondents in other areas of practice also reported be- ing the recipients of threats and violence: Judge (7.6 percent); Corporate/Commercial/ Real Estate (8.5 percent); and General Litiga- tion (13.2 percent); Labor/Employment/Civ- il Rights (3.8 percent); and Wills/Estates (2.0 percent). An additional 17.9 percent of re- spondents, practicing in other areas of law, reported being the recipients of threats and violence. ceived relating specifically to their respon- sibilities as a legal practitioner. There were 102 respondents who reported the respons- es set forth in Table 2 below. Inappropri- ate and threatening communications were those communicated verbally (in person and by phone), through letters, email, text, Face- book, and even “wanted posters” with the attorney’s name and picture. Inappropriate approaches included face-to-face confronta- tions, attempts to commit violence, and be- ing followed. Only 8 respondents (7.8 per- cent) who identified themselves as recipients of threats and violence reported being the victim of a physical assault. Similar to the results of the other twenty- four state surveys, an overwhelming major- ity of respondents identified inappropriate and threatening communications and ap- proaches. Inappropriate communications were made primarily in person or by phone, and included direct and veiled threats. For example, individuals made threats of: “”I’ll get you”; “Watch out”; “I’ve got your name and address”; “You better watch your back”; “I know where you live”; “You sure your tires are safe?”; “I’ll string you up and burn you”; “Be careful”; “I’ll show up at your office”; “I’ll throw you down the stairs”; “I’ll punch you in the face”; “I’ll make you pay”; “I’ll break you neck”; etc. The majority of reported threats were made directly against attorneys. How- ever, multiple threats were directed against attorneys’ employees, families and children. One attorney reported where an opposing party left ten voicemails threatening his fam- ily, and made direct threats to his wife while they were walking down a street. Another attorney reported how a pro se party made threats concerning his child and named the elementary school that he attended. Many respondents described their expe- riences of learning of threats through other forms of inappropriate communications, in- cluding vandalism to vehicles (slashed tires, keyed car, etc.) and vandalism to/attack upon their residences (propane tank intentionally damaged, shooting at residence, etc.), and even attacks on a pet (pet dog shot). 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