COUNTY JUDGES AND OFFICERS
Hon. Joanne Ertel, Esq.
County Clerk and County Treasurer
Pepper Tepperman 802-457-5222
Office Hours: Tuesday & Thursday 10 – 4
Assistant County Clerk and
Assistant County Treasurer
D. Michael Chamberlin
802 457 5211
SUPERIOR COURT OF VERMONT
MON. – FRI. 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Windsor County Courthouse
12 The Green
Woodstock, VT 05201
Civil Division: 802 457-2122
Probate Division: 802 457-5201
DISTRICT COURT OF VERMONT
82 Railroad Row
White River Junction, VT 05001
Criminal Division: 802-295-8865
Family Division 802-295-8865
History of the Court House
The Windsor County Courthouse has a very dramatic history. The stately brick edifice with a distinctive cupola was built in 1855, the year after a fire destroyed its predecessor on July 4. The first floor served as the Town Hall; the second floor housed the courtroom. The Town Hall was the site of Town Meeting, and served as a theater, playhouse and gathering place. The original ticket window remains in the lobby.
The exterior of the original block has seen few changes over the years, but an addition was constructed at the rear of the building in 2014 to allow for handicapped accessibility. The cupola, trim and quoins on the building were painted white in the early 1900s, a result of the Colonial Revival movement in architecture.
The interior has changed as the uses of the building changed. In 1899 Woodstock constructed a new Town Hall and this allowed the entire building to be dedicated to court business, and it was renovated with that in mind. The level of the first floor was raised in the area beyond the entry way, and the space was carved into offices. Another major renovation took place in 1946 to create offices for the Grand Jury upstairs, with the exception of the tin ceiling, the interior of the court room has changed very little from the mid-nineteenth century.
Some original furnishings remain in use in the building.
The Windsor County Courthouse was the scene of a murder trial in 1926, and the verdict of guilty brought the nationally famed defense attorney Clarence Darrow into the case. The horrific crime in Windsor, November 7. Cecilia S. Gullivan, a 40-year old employee of Cone Blanchard Machine Company in Windsor, had been brutally beaten to death and found by police the next day in her bed. The speedy verdict of guilty seemed destined to send the accused, John C. Winters, to the electric chair. Sentencing was postponed to give the defense time to respond, which they did, filing an appeal.
At this point in the legal proceedings, in stepped Darrow. The circumstances of his involvement can be traced back to 1904 when his son Paul Darrow was a student at Dartmouth College. Out for a ride in a carriage in Hanover, Paul’s horse bolted at the sound of a train and he was unable to control the animal, resulting in the death of the 5-year old son of Mrs. Harry Cooley. Troubled by the tragic death of the little boy, Paul promised the Cooley family that if ever they needed anything, he and his family would help them. Twenty-four years later, Mrs. Cooley called on Clarence Darrow. As the aunt of Winters, she got word to the attorney and requested he help Winters escape the death penalty.
By the late 1920s, Darrow had built a reputation in the U.S. for his legal defense tactics and eloquence. He is best known for his role in the Scopes Trial (also known as the Monkey Trial) in Tennessee where he defended a teacher accused of violating the law against teaching about the evolution of humankind. On the opposing side of that case was the famous William Jennings Bryan. Darrow also had a reputation for successfully defending the seemingly indefensible, such as the McNamara brothers who were charged with the bombing the Los Angeles Times building that killed 21 people. He believed criminals tended to be poor, uneducated people and he was strongly opposed to the death penalty.
The trial of Winters had been dramatic, attracting crowds that filled the Windsor County Courthouse. One of the more riveting scenes in the courtroom was Bessie Pandjiris identifying him as the perpetrator of the assault on her in her bedroom the same night as the murder. The prosecution linked the two crimes to Winters, citing evidence such as burrs, sand, dirt and coal dust found at both scenes and on his clothing. Also noteworthy was the sheriff’s reconstruction of the purported state of Gullivan’s bedroom in the courtroom with items such as bedding.
Darrow, age 71, came out of retirement, to argue the case in the Vermont Supreme Court in Montpelier. He made a series of points, all but one of which were rejected by the court. The one that satisfied the court was Darrow’s contention that the court should not have excluded the testimony regarding the blood on Winter’s clothing, since this left open the possibility the blood could have been there before the murder.
The court ruled Winters a reprieve in the form of a re-trial. But though this was a temporary reprieve for him, he stood the chance of a re-conviction in a second trial. In 1929, he was brought back to Windsor County Courthouse, where clerk George Brockway asked him if he wanted to change his plea. Winters did, to guilty, resulting in a life sentence. This change in plea meant no re-trial so Darrow never came to Woodstock. He had kept his son’s promise to the Cooleys and he had upheld his own belief that the death penalty was wrong.
History of Windsor County
About The Assistant Judges
Jack Anderson is a native of Maine, and has been a resident of Vermont for 37 years. His education is in History and Historic Preservation, and he has a special interest in architectural history and the built environment. He is also a teacher, and most recently taught history and historic preservation courses at Norwich University and the University of Vermont.
He is currently serving his second term as Assistant Judge. Prior to that, he served as the Director of the Woodstock Historical Society for seven years and from 1999 to 2005 represented Woodstock and Reading in the Vermont Legislature. He was also a member of the Woodstock Select Board for three years.
He and his wife Dee have lived in Woodstock since 1978, and they have a daughter, Bethanie, a 1989 grad of Woodstock Union High School.
Ellen Terie has been a Windsor County resident for seventeen years. In the past she had served as the Court Liaison for the Mascoma (NH) School District, and as a Community Volunteer for Valley Court Diversion program. Other past community service includes, having served as a Supervisor for the Ottauquechee Conservation District, and as a Board Member of the Vermont Sheep and Goat Association.
Terie worked as the Creative Services Manager for Cotton Incorporated in NYC managing a multi-million dollar budget. Her business skills were later transferred to the agricultural arena as owner-operator of Shepherd’s Hill Farm in Taftsville, VT. Additionally, she currently has a small psychotherapy practice, and is a member in good standing of the American Counseling Association.
Presently Terie is active with the Osher Life-long Learning program at Dartmouth where she serves on the Marketing Committee, and is a Study Leader.
Windsor County Notaries
For information regarding Notaries Public in Vermont, please go to the Vermont Association of County Judges web page
Windsor County Notaries by town:
Windsor County News
2017 has been a busy and productive year for the Assistant Judges and Windsor County. Here are some of happenings in the past year:
With the installation of interior storm windows at the court house at 12 The Green in 2015, the county continued to save thousands of dollars in fuel costs.
For the fourth year in a row, the county finished the 2016-2017 fiscal year solidly in the black and will roll that surplus into the 2018-2019 budget.
We are in the fourth year of the bond repayment which financed the renovation of the court house in 2013. The interest rate on the repayment was lowered slightly, which will save the county taxpayers over $8,000 over the next five years.
Work to rehabilitate seven historic (original to 1855) windows at 12 The Green was completed last fall.
Judge Terie recently competed the 40-hour Civil Mediation course at the National Judicial College in Reno, NV.
The County has established the Windsor County Mediation Center in its building at 62 Pleasant Street. Windsor County Bar members are using it for civil mediation.
Lastly, we said goodbye to our Building Superintendent Carl Tancreti, who retired and headed west for the winter. We welcome our new Building Super, Bruce Page.