New Environmental Court Guidelines

The Environmental Division of the Vermont Superior Court (commonly called the Environmental Court) has recently established, under the direction of the Vermont Supreme Court, “Disposition Guidelines” to manage the flow of cases through the litigation process. The Guidelines establish timelines specific to each type of case that the Environmental Court has jurisdiction to resolve; they vary partially based on a case’s complexity.

For instance, a municipal enforcement action is scheduled to reach a decision or settlement within 10 months of the date the municipality files its complaint if the landowner has contested an associated Notice of Violation, but only 4 months if there is no contested Notice of Violation or a Notice of Violation was not necessary to bring the enforcement action. In addition to municipal enforcement actions, a de novo appeal of a municipal panel decision is expected to take from 7 months to a year, depending on its complexity, and municipalities that have taken the steps necessary to afford their municipal panels’ decisions on-the-record review are anticipated to have rulings within 7 months. The anticipated dates of resolution do not account for procedural issues that can lengthen the litigation process, such as when related matters are progressing through multiple courts or when there are multiple municipal permits involved, but the Guidelines do provide litigants with a rough outline of how cases should proceed through the Environmental Court.

At a recent brown bag discussion hosted by the Chittenden County Bar Association, the judges and staff of the Environmental Court conveyed that compliance with the Guidelines will require everyone’s participation and assistance. The Environmental Court has already begun including a copy of the appropriate timeline when it distributes documents to parties who are in litigation.

The Environmental Court Disposition Guidelines may be accessed, under Directive 30, on the Vermont Judiciary website:

Questions about the new Guidelines or how they impact your case may be directed to Diane M. Sherman, Esq.