A Case of Good Intentions: The Vermont Supreme Court and State Constitutional Protection of Civil Rights and Liberties

By Aho, Jan J. | Albany Law Review, Summer 1997 | Go to article overview

A Case of Good Intentions: The Vermont Supreme Court and State Constitutional Protection of Civil Rights and Liberties


Aho, Jan J., Albany Law Review


The mere mention of Vermont conjures up images of a rocky and rugged state inhabited by people no less rugged and independent. In light of these character traits, both of the state and its people, it should come as no surprise that the state's highest court has a relatively extensive history of state constitutional adjudication.(1) The court has long recognized its duty to the citizens of Vermont to interpret the state constitution independently from the federal constitution.(2) While most of this state's constitutional adjudication concerns "criminal rights,"(3) the court has also had occasion to address civil rights and liberties under the Vermont Constitution. It is upon this latter body of case law that this Comment will focus.

Initially, it would appear unnecessary to note that the United States is exactly that -- a group of sovereign states which have united and jointly consented to be governed, in limited areas, by a central government.(4) An understanding of this concept is fundamental to an understanding of state constitutional adjudication. The United States Constitution governs the relationship between the federal government and the people of each of the sovereign states.(5) Inherent in the idea that one set of "rules" can effectively and simultaneously regulate diverse and independent states is the acknowledgment that the "rules" should be applied so as to be acceptable, within certain fundamental limits, to all of the sovereign states.(6) As such, the rules are minimalist, in the sense that they authorize only the minimal level of federal intrusion into state affairs necessary to protect the basic rights and liberties essential to American notions of democratic government.(7) Thus, the federal constitution and its Bill of Rights provide only a lowest common denominator of protection to basic rights and liberties against encroachment by the federal government.(8)

While charting a minimalist course for the federal government and constitution, the Framers conversely envisioned the states, through their own state constitutions, as the primary protectors of individual rights and liberties.(9) Unfortunately, state constitutional law has, until fairly recently, been derided as either an exercise in judicial activism(10) or as the product of result-oriented judicial decision-making.(11) The reality of state constitutional adjudication is that state courts which vigorously pursue the development of a body of state constitutional case law, thereby furthering the Framer's federalist ideals, are far from the liberal reactionaries their critics might claim it to be.

Thus, an understanding of the methods and approaches utilized by various state courts, as well as the understanding of those courts about state constitutional adjudication is vitally important for advancing the role of state constitutions as the primary protectors of liberty. It is to this end that this Comment is directed.

To provide a preliminary framework for discussion, Part I of this Comment will briefly address the rationale, importance, and the methods of state constitutional adjudication employed by state courts. Part II will then analyze cases from the Vermont Supreme Court which construe Vermont's constitutional guarantees of equal protection, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech. This analysis will focus on the method and manner of constitutional adjudication employed by the court and specifically on the court's understanding of the relation between state constitutional adjudication and its federal counterpart. Based on these cases, Part III will then analyze the court's approach to constitutional adjudication under the Vermont Constitution.

I. The Judicial Framework for State Constitutional Adjudication in Vermont

A. Methods of Constitutional Adjudication: State Claims v. Federal Claims

Because litigants in state courts often claim that a state action violates both the federal and state constitutions, state courts are often presented with several alternative methods for addressing constitutional issues.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

A Case of Good Intentions: The Vermont Supreme Court and State Constitutional Protection of Civil Rights and Liberties
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.