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by scott huminski Friday, Sep. 26, 2003 at 4:55 AM

Civil Rights and Liberties in Dean's Vermont


Dean recently has strongly criticized the Patriot Act and Ashcroft. Dean's record reveals that his policy in Vermont was to appoint judges that would ignore "legal technicalities" (i.e. the Bill of Rights). He publicly stated this policy in a 1997 Vermont Press Bureau interview. His record shows that he appointed anti-civil-rights judges. Dean increased prison funding 150% during his tenure in Vermont. Dean called for “a re-evaluation of the importance of some of our specific civil liberties” post 9-11. Dean will say anything to gather votes, regardless of his record and what his true feelings are concerning an issue.

Dean’s closest friend and favorite appointee, Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell, is currently fighting vigorously in the federal courts to allow Vermont to close courthouses to the press and citizens for any reason without hearing, court findings, trial or Due Process in direct contravention of First Amendment requirements concerning closure of courtrooms. According to Sorrell, simply criticizing the government or reporting on court corruption can justify banishment for life from Vermont courthouses. Dean and Sorrell’s courthouse secrecy policy can be invoked with unfettered discretion by a single government employee based upon the way one looks, the way one thinks, one’s political views or any other arbitrary standard without opportunity for the banished persons to challenge the sanction consistent with Due Process. This is civil rights in Vermont after Dean finished his appointments.

Dean's covert implementation of a Vermont Patriot Act in the 1990s by simply appointing anti-Bill-of-Rights judges and placing Sorrell in the Attorney General’s office is far worse than any piece of federal legislation now in place. Unlike legislation, Dean's covert Vermont Patriot Act can not be repealed or modified and it oppresses Vermonters to this day. Whatever one’s opinion of the Patriot Act, it was at least done in public view. Dean chose to oppress the people of Vermont and subvert the Bill of Rights in secrecy behind closed doors via appointments. He now claims to be a civil liberties champion.

Dean’s criticism of Ashcroft is a sham and directly contradicts his record in Vermont. His conduct in Vermont was far worse than any allegations he directs at Ashcroft.

-- Scott Huminski

Supportive links embedded below.

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by VOTE KUCINICH Friday, Sep. 26, 2003 at 5:56 AM

Kucinich meet-up Oct. 2
Barnes & Noble - Squirrel Hill

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See you there
by angry mob Friday, Sep. 26, 2003 at 6:30 AM

Don't take the electoral placebo...
Like those misguided but well meaning dipshits who had their voter registation drive at Laga.

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Another Dean smear
by rene Saturday, Sep. 27, 2003 at 4:01 PM

Kris, I agree with you that this post by Scott is not credible. His leading accusation that "Dean increased prison funding 150% during his tenure in Vermont. is nutty--even if it was true.

Scott does not know what Dean's tenure was, or else he wants to keep it secret, to help with the deception. Dean was the Vermont governor from 1991-2002, a period of 11 years. A 150% increase during a period of time when there has been a massive increase of the prison population in America is a great record. Most states have had much larger increases in prison budgets.

America with 5% of the world's population has 25% of the world's prison population. It's a growth industry. At the current rate of increase we will all be in jail in a few decades.

According to data from the U.S. Dept. of Justice, in 2001 the Vermont incarceration rate was 213 per 100.000. Only four states had lower incarceration rates.


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by me Sunday, Sep. 28, 2003 at 5:18 PM

Did you check out the link? There are quite a few articles about Dean, and it seems that he s no better than Ashcroft.
All politicians are the same. Their campaigns are full of empty promises, misconceptions, and ploys.
Republicans, Democrats,.... what's the difference? They all follow the trail of the moneybag. None of them care about civil liberties. They use any ploy (education, healthcare, protection from "terrorists") to get the American people to support them.
There has never been nor will be a politician who is honest, caring, and trustworthy.

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by dude Tuesday, Sep. 30, 2003 at 3:44 PM

i like rene's response, dean doesn't put as many people in jail as others, dean's 4th best out of 50 evils
rene and scot your pawns fighting each other while both kings and queens laugh at you

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by citizen Tuesday, Sep. 30, 2003 at 4:36 PM

>According to data from the U.S. Dept. of Justice, in 2001 the Vermont incarceration rate was 213 per 100.000. Only four states had lower incarceration rates.

Vermont has an overwhelmingly predominate white populace and is mainly a rural state.

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by free thinker Tuesday, Sep. 30, 2003 at 6:21 PM

Vermont is full of ski lodges, affluent white people, and woods.

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by scott huminski Saturday, Nov. 01, 2003 at 11:30 PM


Dean’s subversion of the Bill of Rights through judicial appointments.

July 30, 1997 article from the Rutland Herald and Montpelier Times-Argus followed by commentary provided by the editorial staff of the Rutland Herald/Times-Argus and commentary by Thom Hartmann. Dean is frighteningly ignorant concerning civil/constitutional rights. Should anyone wonder why two judges (appointed within months of the below article) and Dean’s best friend, Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell are fighting civil rights charges in Manhattan Federal Court currently. Two of Dean’s judicial appointees have been subject to a federal injunction for the last 3 years for first amendment violations. -- Scott Huminski


Rutland Herald, Wednesday, July 30, 1997


By Diane Derby

Vermont Press Bureau

MONTPELIER – As Gov. Howard B. Dean was mulling his second appointment to the Vermont Supreme Court earlier this month, he made little effort to mask his distaste for some of the court’s recent decisions.

The direction of the five-member court needed to be “changed dramatically”. Dean said. He was confident that his first appointment – naming Attorney General Jeffrey Amestoy to be the new chief justice last march – was a major step in the right direction.

“I’m looking to steer the court back towards consideration of the rights of the victims”, Dean said three weeks ago in a radio interview with Bob Kinzel of the Vermont News Service. “I’m looking to make it easier to convict guilty people and not have as many technicalities interfere with justice, and I’ll appoint someone to fit that bill”.

Asked if that reflected a “get-tough-on-crime” approach, Dean responded: “I’m looking for someone who is for justice. My beef about the judicial system is that it does not emphasize truth and justice over lawyering. It emphasizes legal technicalities and rights of the defendants and all that.”

Such comments may play well with the general public, but they have sent a chill through the collective spine of lawyers – particularly defense lawyers – around the state.

Throughout his six-year tenure, Dean’s public chiding of the judiciary has led many lawyers to question the doctor-governor’s grasp of constitutional law. In their eyes, Dean views the protections contained in the Bill of Rights as mere “technicalities”.

It is a view that has been bolstered by Dean’s inflammatory remarks – including his remarks that the state’s Supreme Court has repeatedly allowed murders to go free.

“Dean is just ignorant. I don’t think he understands what judges ought to do.” Says Michael Mello, a Vermont Law School professor who teaches advanced courses in constitutional law. “He perceives the Supreme Court as being broken in some way and sees himself on a mission to fix it.”

“That is pure, ignorant, political demagoguery”, Mello charged, “Nonsense on stilts.”


Tension between the executive and judicial branches of government is not new, nor is it unique to the Dean administration. But rarely has it been played out on such a public stage.

Mello and other lawyers around the state are quick to offer high praise for both Amestoy and District Judge Marilyn Skoglund, whom Dean named on Monday to fill a high court vacancy left by the retirement of justice Ernest Gibson III.

Both jurists, along with the current members of the Supreme Court, are widely regarded within the legal community as independent thinkers who will not allow political pressures to sway their interpretation of the law. (see note below, sh)

But Dean’s penchant for selecting prosecutors to fill judicial vacancies also has some defense lawyers questioning whether Vermont’s court system is becoming too “one-dimensional”.

Last week, Dean appointed Howard VanBenthuysen, a former state’s attorney and onetime police officer, to a vacant superior court judgeship. In doing so, he passed over the names of private attorneys and at least one public defender.

Skoglund served as a prosecutor in the attorney general’s office before being named a District Court judge three years ago.

The roster of District and Superior Court judges Dean has appointed over the past five years also suggests the attorney general’s office has become a fertile ground for judicial training.

Adding to the mix, Dean’s high-profile but failed effort earlier this year to appoint his administration secretary, William Sorrell, to head the high court was widely viewed as an effort to end-run the judicial nominating process. (Dean later named Sorrell to fill the attorney general’s job left vacant by Amestoy’s appointment.)

(Huminski Note: Cronies v. Qualifications, Dean’s Dilemma)

“I don’t think he has any regard for any process that gets in the way of what he wants to accomplish … Look at how he was trying to move the justices around like chess pieces there.”, said Leighton Detora, a Barre lawyer who said he was once a supporter of the governor, but is no longer.

“He’s a doctor, and as such, he has all the learned responses to the legal profession – that we are just out here, and lawyers jobs are to make things more complicated.”

“In his own arrogance, I think somehow he thinks he has a lock on truth and wisdom.” said Detora, who is president-elect of the Vermont Trial Lawyers Association, but stressed that he was speaking only on his own behalf.

Dean dismisses such criticism, saying that his comments about “technicalities” getting in the way of truth and justice have been misinterpreted.

But Dean is quick to point to several decisions in which he says the Vermont Supreme Court went too far, particularly cases in which the court held that the state’s constitutional protections went far beyond what the U.S. Constitution provides for.

(Huminski note: The various states have constitutions that are unique. They have various protections that many times are unique to a particular state or exceed the protections of their analogs set forth in the federal constitution. The authors of the US Constitution had no intention of limiting the rights of the inhabitants of the various states to those only set forth in the federal constitution. This is Dean ignorance at its finest.)

Dean said he believed the state’s high court had especially taken the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure too far.

“In general, I think the court in the past has been overly restrictive about what evidence could be introduced,” Dean said in a phone interview form Las Vegas, where he is attending the National Governors’ Association summer meeting.

The result, said Dean, is that a jury doesn’t always get a complete picture of “the truth” and defendants are turned free.

“For whatever reason,” he said, “the old court really was very concerned with the rights of defendants.” (Huminski note: The “rights of defendants” are defined in the 4th, 5th and 6th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.)

Dean’s views on constitutional protections were first challenged more than four years ago, when he fired the state’s then defender general, E.M. Allen, over budgetary issues.

In a cost-cutting move, Dean sought to limit services of the public defenders office, while toughening the standards for those who qualify. But critics charged that Dean was turning a blind eye on an indigent defendants’ right to an attorney. Poor criminal defendants, Deans critics noted, were a politically unpopular group.

Allen’s successor, Defender General Robert Appel, has often found himself battling over budgetary issues with the Dean administration. Perhaps not surprisingly, Appel says he does not share the governor’s view that the Supreme Court has gone too far in weighing a defendants’ rights.

“I would say it is a fundamental difference in perspective between me and my boss,” said Appel, “I don’t think our Supreme Court, or any appellate court, lightly reverses a criminal conviction.”

Dean and his legal counsel, Janet Ancel, spent Saturday interviewing the 11 candidates who were nominated for Gibson’s job before he named Skoglund to the bench.

Much of the day was spent discussing judicial philosophy, as Dean quizzed the would-be justices on their views regarding several Vermont Supreme Court rulings.

One such case involved the court’s decision to overturn a 1993 first degree murder conviction against Robert Durenleau, who was charged with helping his lover kill her husband following an affair.

The state Supreme Court found that the circumstantial evidence presented during the trial did not support the jury’s guilty finding. In a rare move the court not only overturned the verdict, it entered an acquittal in the case, therefore preventing Durenleau from ever being retried.

“We do not readily overturn a jury’s determination, but this court cannot shrink from its duty to protect an individual’s due process right to conviction only by evidence of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.” The court wrote in reversing the conviction. (Huminski note: Up to this portion of the article, Dean has professed his problem with the 4th, 6th and now 5th Amendments Contained in the Bill of Rights, looking at the link below you will see his appointees have problems with the 1st Amendment as well. He’s on a roll.)

The Durenleau case was one of five murder cases that the court overturned (the other four were remanded for retrial), prompting Dean to publicly portray the court as soft on crime while charging that its justices were allowing killers to walk free.

Dean also quizzed the judicial candidates about the court’s 1982 decision to overturn the conviction of Edwin Towne after a Windsor County jury found him guilty of kidnapping and assault. In that case, the court said testimony introduced by a forensic psychiatrist amounted to hearsay and thereby violated Towne’s right to confront the witness.

Dean argued that as a result of the court’s decision, Towne’s plea bargain agreement meant a shorter sentence, and a second chance for Towne to act as a predator. Several years later, Towne was arrested and subsequently convicted in the brutal slaying of a young girl. (Huminski Comment: After the overturning of the conviction on 5th Amendment grounds, the prosecutor could have sought to re-try the individual on the same original charges carrying the same penalty. Instead, the prosecutor involved chose to offer the favorable plea agreement carrying a lighter penalty. The court decision merely followed the provisions in the Bill of Rights, a problem for Dean. Dean ignorance once-again.)

In the end, Dean insists that his mission is not to eliminate any constitutional protections, but rather to promote a more common-sense approach to the legal arena.

But others – particularly with a keen eye on constitutional protections – say Dean’s approach is both simplistic and short-sighted. As Mello sees it, the rights that Dean sees as “technicalities” are there to preserve the rights of all citizens, including citizens accused of crimes, to be free from government intrusion.

“These are not technicalities. In my view, any lawyer who said that would be speaking irresponsibly”, said Mello. “I am not a doctor, and I would not take it upon myself to tell Howard Dean how to practice medicine.”


Huminski note: Now its time to look at Dean’s judicial appointees to see if his mission to make “common-sense” more important than “legal technicalities” succeeded. I think Dr. Dean accomplished his mission in Vermont. Next mission –Dean “justice” for the United States. No thanks.

(see Howard Dean’s legacy under fire)

Regarding the Vermont Supreme Court, their decision to cover-up the acceptance of a bribe by a state prosecutor is also before a federal court in Manhattan. There is more on that judicial body as far as blatant disregard for the law and corruption. Dean has opened up a can-of-worms, time for the public to take a peak inside. Vermont is seething with corruption.

(See also Judicial Watch – Watching Howard Dean, After digging up the above article from microfilm at the Rutland Library, I can only imagine what is in Dean’s sealed records)


Rutland Herald, Thursday, July 31, 1997 & Times-Argus

Editorial Staff


Gov. Howard Dean may be right when he says that most criminal defendants are guilty of one crime or another. That supposition is no more relevant than another: That most police officers and prosecutors are honest and dependable.

Dean is famously impatient with the “technicalities” that he believes too often allow criminals to go free. But the two above suppositions suggest why the technicalities that infuriate Dean are necessary constitutional rights protecting us all.

We all know, for example, that even if most criminal defendants are guilty, some are not. We also know that even if most police are honest and competent, some are not.

The constitutional protections that Dean derides protect the innocent and the guilty from the arbitrary, illegal, biased, capricious conduct that is the occasional work of those police officers who do not fall into the category of honest and dependable. Indeed, there is no way to protect the rights of just the innocent since the system to determine innocence or guilt must operate within the rules that protect everyone.

Is anyone going to argue that the police never abuse their power. Jack Hoffman write a column in the Herald three weeks ago describing the way police had violated the rights of a suspect in a Manchester murder case back the the 1980s. Judge Ernest Gibson III, sitting in Superior Court, ruled that the police had tricked a teenager into confessing and that the confession and part of the evidence they had seized could not be used in trial.

The Supreme Court upheld Gibson’s findings.

Sometimes police get overenthusiastic, and they trammel on a suspect’s right against self-incrimination or his right to protection against unwarranted search and seizure. Those are rights that apply to everyone, even those who may eventually be found guilty of a crime.

Dean’s lack of interest in the Constitution came to the foreground as he discussed his views of the Vermont Supreme Court and what kind of person he would appoint as justice to replace Gibson, who retires today. He ended up appointing District Judge Marilyn Skoglund.

Dean has a history of appointing people with experience as prosecutors or with the attorney general’s office, where Skoglund had worked before she became a judge. Of Course, a prosecutor with integrity can be as dedicated to justice as the best defense lawyer; conscientious representation on both sides is essential for the justice system to work.

But Dean’s mistrust of the defense bar and his impatience with constitutional process are all part of his stunted view of the legal system. So is his stinginess with the public defenders office.

Dean’s appointment of Skoglund and the discussion of his views happens to have occurred during the week when William J. Brennan Jr. was buried. Brennan was the retired Supreme Court justice who has been recognized as one of the most influential justices to sit on the Supreme Court, precisely because his rulings have secured for all Americans many rights we now take for granted.

The constitution is designed to place limits on arbitrary power, which means police cannot break into homes without a warrant in search for evidence, and they cannot coerce confessions from vulnerable, frightened people. Brennan helped establish these protections, and he is revered for it.

It would be nice if the shade of William Brennan could sit down with Howard Dean and have a little discussion about the constitution.

“Howard,” he might say, “better to have a society where the occasional scoundrel goes free as a result of official misconduct than a society without laws to protect people from misconduct.”

Such laws require judges of integrity and courage to defend them. In Vermont, the late judge Frank Mahady was one of the most well-known defenders of Vermonters constitutional rights. There’s no reason even a former prosecutor or someone like Marilyn Skoglund cannot follow in the tradition of Brennan and Mahady.

Huminski note: After living in Vermont over a decade, I can attest to the fact that police and prosecutors have become bold and empowered knowing that the Dean appointed judiciary will look the other way concerning their constitutional transgressions and corruption.


note: this article was available for years on Thom Hartmann’s web site. Since I’ve been linking to it for several months now, its been removed. As of this writing his home page still has a synopsis and a link that does not work. An excellent analysis of Howard Dean’s justice. Thanks Thom Hartmann. – Scott Huminski


By Thom Hartmann

For men tied fast to the absolute, bled of their differences, drained of their dreams by authoritarian leeches until nothing but pulp is left, become a massive sick Thing whose sheer weight is used ruthlessly by ambitious men. Here is the real enemy of the people: our own selves dehumanized into “the masses.” And where is David who can slay this giant? – Lillian Smith (1897-1966), U.S. Author, The Journey, Prologue (1954)

In July of 1997, Vermont governor Howard Dean announced that he wanted to appoint to the Vermont Supreme Court a justice who would consider “common sense more important than legal technicalities” and “quickly convict guilty criminals.”

It’s probably a testimonial to the good job public education has done in Vermont that there wasn’t a public uprising against him ( although the Montpelier letters-to-the-editor section was filled with invective for several weeks). Certainly this is a statement that would not have been acceptable to the people who made Vermont the second independent Caucasian-run nation in North America (after Texas). The founding fathers of Vermont, which dropped its independent-nation status to become the USA’s 14th state in 1779, knew all too well the dangers of a government unconstrained by the “technicalities” of the law. They’d seen it when the British forced them to house their soldiers, shot or hung them for speaking out against the King, and allowed them to engage in commerce or own property only if they gave a portion of their wealth to England. They realized that the government has most of the guns and all of the power, and that it’s only “legal technicalities” which keep any government at bay. They fought and many of them died to put those “technicalities” into place. When politicians like Dean call for “swift and certain conviction of the guilty” (which actually means “swift and certain conviction of the accused, since a person is only guilty when they’ve been convicted … at least as of the date of this writing) in the courts of the state “regardless of technicalities,” I imagine our founding fathers roll over in their graves.

The average American, however, nods his head and says, “Yeah, get them criminals off the streets. Convict ‘em quick and lock ‘em up for good!” The average American rarely considers that he or she may be the next “criminal” facing the accusing finger of the government.

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After Hitler, Us!
by John Lacny Wednesday, Nov. 05, 2003 at 7:52 AM

Well, here we go . . . arguments that people should vote for Bush (literally or in practice) because "Dean is worse than Ashcroft [!!!]" Yes indeed, we should do nothing, or even actively support the most reactionary candidate next year (Bush), because that will heighten the contradictions of the system, thus paving the way for revolution!

Rally comrades, for while the masses will vote for Bush next year, they will be raising the red flag the next! (Or is it the black flag these days? I am far too much of a stodgy "Stalinist" throwback to keep up on the stylistic accoutrements of windbag ultraleftists anymore.)

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Ahh, the glassy-eyed Deanies
by Amnesiacs for Dean Wednesday, Nov. 05, 2003 at 9:06 AM

Johnny Deanie, Johnny Deanie, Deanie Deanie, Johnny Johnny
Go sell your flowers at the airport.

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Dean's Disdain for the Bill of Rights
by scott huminski Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2003 at 6:47 AM


Seven Days


Burlington, Vermont

* * * *


By Peter Freyne

Ask Governor Howard Dean a question and more often than not, you'll get a Howard Dean answer. There are times he'll actually say, "I'd rather not comment on that" or "That's the first I've heard of that," but hit the right button and the guy with the 68-
percent approval rating and certain re-election staring him in the face will shoot from the lip with blazing accuracy. Such was the case recently when the subject of State Auditor Ed Flanagan was waved in front of Dean like a red cape in front of a big, bad bull. And The Lip showed itself again the other day when the Gov was asked if he had any thoughts on the decision by Chittenden County States Attorney Scot Kline to drop charges against the Free Mumia protesters arrested during last summer's NGA spectacular. Judge Dean Pineles ruled on June 12, over the prosecutor's objection, that the defendants could present a "necessity defense" -- in a tradition made famous over a decade ago by the Winooski 44 who invaded U.S. Sen. Robert Stafford's Winooski office and refused to leave. Six protesters were arrested outside the Sheraton last summer for playing "catch us if you can" as they streaked for the hotel's front door in a long-shot attempt to reach Gov. Ridge of Pennsylvania and persuade him to commute the death sentence of cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal. They didn't have a chance and were quickly tackled by an all-star team of cops from local communities as well as state troopers. They were charged with unlawful trespass.

Howard Dean could have let this one slide. He could have said, "I really don't want to comment on that. It was the prosecutor's call." But he didn't. Ho-Ho couldn't resist. Firmly mounted on the state's largest bully pulpit, Howard Brush Dean opened up with both barrels. His first shot was aimed squarely at the judge.

"The error was by the judge not the prosecutor," replied Ho-Ho. "The decision to allow the necessity defense to be used was a mistake." Brilliant legal mind, our governor, eh? "I thought it was very disappointing and unfortunate," said The Lip, "that Judge Pineles made the decision he did about the use of the necessity defense in a case where there was significant damage done to public property such as the Ethan Allen Homestead
and $25,000 of police overtime. I don't regard those as trivial. I was very disappointed."

It's certainly comforting to know just where the guy who appoints judges to the Vermont bench stands on matters of law. This only embellishes Ho-Ho's law and order reputation. Remember he's the guy who once said 95 percent of people charged with crimes are guilty anyway so why should the state spend money on providing them with lawyers?

"These guys defaced the Ethan Allen Homestead," continued Field Marshall Howard Von Dean. "These guys are a bunch of hoods running around our streets. I don't think this has anything to do with the necessity offense --imported hoods I might add. People who spray paint and deface public property are hoodlums not protesters with some higher purpose. I have no patience for that." Never mind that no one has ever been charged with a crime for spray painting "Free Mumia" on the walls of the Ethan Allen Homestead where the governors gathered for breakfast. Can't let the facts get in your way. Judge Pineles told Inside Track that he "respects the Governor's opinion," but noted his ruling
allowing the necessity defense was "legally sound." Pineles carefully applied the four-pronged standard established in case law by the Vermont Supreme Court. He followed the law, not the whims of the state's most successful politician. The prosecution appealed to the high court but the Supremes refused to hear it. They let Pineles' ruling stand for one reason and one reason only -- it was the right decision. You've got to wonder if Ho-Ho's King George III views on the law reflect at all the views of his right hand man -- Administration Secretary Bill Sorrell, our Supreme Court justice in waiting. Blaming the judge for going by the book might make Ho-Ho feel good, but one would expect a little more class from one so well bred.


Huminski Comment - This judge merely ruled that the defendants could assert a specific defense to the charges when it came before trial. In response, the prosecutor dropped the charges when he knew he would be facing a strong defense in a very public trial. The prosecutor realized that this case would not be the usual railroad job that Vermont prosecutors have become accustomed to under Dean regime appointed judges. Dean, a fan of prosecutors, blames the judge because a prosecutor realized his case was too weak to overcome a valid defense. Dr. Dean what other legal defenses should we eliminate to satisfy your zeal to convict at all costs? Dean was born to wealthy nobility, but unfortunately, in the wrong era. Historically, rulers like Dean could have been the law unto themselves. It must be very frustrating to Dean that he wasn’t in power several hundred years ago where he could have really called the shots unconstrained by the technicalities of the law.

Use of the trespass statute as a tool to silence dissent has become commonplace in Dean’s tenure in Vermont and that practice is currently before the federal courts as an unconstitutionally over-broad restriction on First Amendment rights. This federal ruling is expected within the next several weeks and it will hopefully be the start of the un-doing of what Dean did to justice and the Bill of Rights in Vermont.

Vermont Public Radio, Bob Kinzel: "It's likely that Howard Dean's tenure in office will also have a long term effect on the state's criminal justice system. In his first years as Governor, Dean was often critical of judges who Dean thought did not hand down tough enough sentences. Over the last 10 years, Dean has appointed more judges than any previous governor and Dean describes his appointees as "law and order" judges. Dean's judicial philosophy appears to be having a significant impact - during his tenure as governor the average sentence handed down in Vermont has doubled - a situation that has led to an overcrowding of the state's prison system." Huminski note, In the rural and sparsely poulated State of Vermont, much of the crime and resulting incarceration arises from offenses that urban prosecutors would pass on.


Dean's Law and Order Views

The representative of the "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party," is, on some constitutional issues, at odds with many of his party’s base.


TIME Magazine, Thursday, Oct. 30, 2003

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean has rarely missed a chance — in debates and smaller forums, as well as on his website — to hammer the Bush administration's handling of civil liberties since the 2001 terrorist attacks. He's even taken other Democrats to task: "Too many in my party voted for the Patriot Act," he said last June in a not-so-veiled jab at some of his opponents in the presidential race. "They believed that it was more important to show bipartisan support for President Bush during a moment of crisis than to stand up for the basic values of our constitution."

But on Sept. 12, 2001, Dean had quite a different reaction. He told the Vermont press corps he believed the terrorist hijackings would "require a re-evaluation of the importance of some of our specific civil liberties. I think there are going to be debates about what can be said where, what can be printed where, what kind of freedom of movement people have and whether it's OK for a policeman to ask for your ID just because you're walking down the street…I think that's a debate that we will have."

Jay Carson, a Dean campaign spokesman, notes that Dean's comments came in the frenetic immediate aftermath of the attacks. "We shouldn't lose our focus on how the Bush administration has cynically used 9/11 to erode American civil liberties," Carson said. "Gov. Dean is and has been for his entire career a strong proponent of civil liberties for everyone." Dean's comments might be attributed to the emotion of the moment. But his views on certain constitutional and criminal justice principles have for years been at odds with those of many who form the base of the party — who are in the "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party" that Dean says he represents.

At the time of Dean's post-9/11 comments, Michael Mello, a Vermont Law School professor, called them "terribly irresponsible." In an interview this week, he gave a broader critique of Dean's approach to legal issues. "Whenever law is involved, he's been dreadful," Mello said. "He just doesn't get the Constitution or what lawyers do or what the courts are for." The exception, he added: Some "surprisingly good" Vermont Supreme Court appointments.

Dean made it clear early in his tenure that he thought alleged criminals were cut too much slack. "My view is that the justice system is not fair," Dean said in 1991 during his first week as governor. "It bends over backwards to help defendants and is totally unfair to victims and to society as a whole." Robert Appel, former head of the state's public defender system, said he had constant clashes with Dean over funding for the service. According to Appel, Dean said on at least one public occasion that the state should spend less money providing the accused with legal representation, saying that "95% of criminal defendants are guilty anyway." (Carson says the comment was meant as a joke, but Appel counters that even if it was, "the underlying message was pretty clear.")

Which may be one reason why Dean, in 1999, wanted to refuse a $150,000 federal grant to the public defender's office for aiding mentally disabled defendants. "That was unusual, to say the least," says Appel. The state legislature overrode Dean's opposition. Dean spokesman Carson responded that Dean didn't want to create a program that the state couldn't afford to fund if federal money disappeared in the future. But he did not disavow Dean's anti-defendant bent. "This is a governor who was tough on crime and is a big believer in victims' rights," Carson says.

Dean's shifting views on the death penalty have raised questions about whether he has gone from being an outspoken opponent to a sometime supporter as a matter of political expediency. He says he began to change his mind in the late 1990s, partly as a result of the case of Polly Klaas, the California girl who was kidnapped, raped and murdered. He attempted an explanation of his support for capital punishment, even while agreeing that in some cases "the wrong guy" might be executed, on NBC's Meet the Press earlier this year. Saying he thought the death penalty was preferable in some instances to a sentence of life without parole, Dean noted that in some instances criminals who are locked up for life might be freed on a legal "technicality" only to commit more horrible crimes. "That is every bit as heinous as putting to death someone who didn't commit the crime," he said.

Dean, whose support for the death penalty is limited to cases involving murdered children or police officers, or mass murder, has since refined his position. On his website, he says that as president he would order his Attorney General to evaluate the federal death penalty and take steps to ensure its fair application; support the Innocence Protection Act, a pending bill that would help defendants secure experienced lawyers and access to DNA testing; and set up a Presidential Commission on the Administration of Capital Punishment to recommend reforms to prevent wrongful convictions.

Appel is willing to give Dean the benefit of the doubt. "My hope is he has grown over time, and I think he has," he said. But the former governor's explanations don't satisfy some of his critics. "He has the wrong reactions when it comes to people's legal rights," said law professor Mello, adding, "I wish so much I could support him."


A detailed look at Dean’s ‘justice’ policies from a 1997 Vermont Press Bureau piece at the below link.

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