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State v. Cuomo

Supreme Court of Vermont

October 18, 2013

State of Vermont
v.
George Cuomo

Motion for Reargument Denied December 6, 2013

Editorial Note:

This Opinion is subject to motion for reargument or formal revision before publication. See V.R.A.P. 40

On Appeal from Superior Court, Orleans Unit, Criminal Division. Howard E. Van Benthuysen, J.

William H. Sorrell, Attorney General, and John Treadwell, Assistant Attorney General, Montpelier, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

David C. Sleigh and Kyle L. Hatt of Sleigh Law, St. Johnsbury, for Defendant-Appellant.

Present: Reiber, C.J., Dooley, Skoglund and Burgess, JJ., and Toor, Supr. J., Specially Assigned.

OPINION

BURGESS, J.

[¶ 1] Defendant appeals an order of the Superior Court, Orleans Unit, Criminal Division, denying his motion to dismiss a two-count information alleging kidnapping and aggravated domestic assault. Defendant contends that the Orleans County State's Attorney who filed the information, Alan Franklin, was invalidly appointed, and that his prosecutions are therefore unlawful and violate due process. The trial court disagreed, concluding the appointment was consistent with the Vermont Constitution and statute; and that, even if the appointment was infirm, the de facto officer doctrine validated Mr. Franklin's authority to prosecute. We conclude that Mr. Franklin was acting as a de facto officer and affirm.

[¶ 2] The parties agreed to the following facts for purposes of defendant's motion to dismiss. On November 7, 2006, Keith Flynn was elected to the office of Orleans County State's Attorney for a term commencing February 1, 2007 and ending January 31, 2011. On November 2, 2010, Mr. Flynn was reelected as State's Attorney for Orleans County. His second term was to commence February 1, 2011 and end January 31, 2015. During the same election, Peter Shumlin was elected Governor, and, as Governor-elect, named Mr. Flynn as his choice for Public Safety Commissioner. On December 27, 2010, Flynn submitted his letter of resignation from the Office of State's Attorney to Governor-elect Shumlin:

effective January 6, 2011 at midnight, to become the Vermont Commissioner of Public Safety, as follows: first, for the remainder of my present term that expires on January 31, 2011 at midnight; and then, for the term to which I was recently elected that commences on February 1, 2011.

[¶ 3] On January 6, 2011, Governor-elect Shumlin took the oath of office as Governor. The same day, Mr. Flynn wrote a letter to Mr. Franklin, then Orleans County Deputy State's Attorney:

My resignation as the Orleans County State's Attorney, to become the Vermont Commissioner of Public Safety, is effective January 6, 2011 at midnight in accordance with my letter to Governor Peter Shumlin. As the senior Deputy State's Attorney in the office, I hereby designate you to act in my capacity as Acting State's Attorney pursuant to the terms of 24 V.S.A. 363 in that you are authorized to exercise all the powers and duties of the state's attorney except the power to designate someone to act in the event of [your] own disqualification. This designation will remain in place until the appointment of a State's Attorney for Orleans County by action of Governor Peter Shumlin.
All appointments of Deputy State's Attorneys continue in full force and effect until the Governor appoints a new Orleans County State's Attorney. In case of a vacancy in the office of state's attorney, the appointment of the deputy shall expire upon the appointment of a new state's attorney. 24 V.S.A. 363. It is my intention that all other ...

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