Last week I testified before the judiciary Committee of the Vermont House of Representatives on H. 417, a bill that would reduce the size of juries in civil cases in Vermont from 12 to 6 members.

The impetus of the bill is a desire to restart civil jury trials as we try to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

I was preceded by a witness who is an authority on the subject of the pandemic and its effects on our society, Professor Nicholas A. Christakis, M.D. Ph.D. M.P.H. Dr. Christakis lives in Norwich Vermont and is the Sterling Professor of Social and Natural Science, Internal Medicine & Biomedical Engineering at Yale University. He is a sociologist and physician who conducts research in the areas of social networks and biosocial science. He directs the Human Nature Lab and is the author of a book about the COVID-19 pandemic, Apollo’s Arrow: The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus on the Way We Live (New York: Little Brown Spark, 2020).

I  am not sure that that all the members of the Judiciary Committee fully appreciated the gravity of Professor Christakis’s remarks.  That is not surprising, as his professorial style did not push the panic button.  

But what Christakis is saying – at least as I understood it — is that this pandemic is not over. As I wrote in my follow-up Memo to the Committee summarizing the Professors remarks: “[I]t is quite likely that we will suffer setbacks with COVID-19 in the fall of 2021. Even if, as the Professor predicts, the epidemiological crisis is over by the end of the 2021, Covid-19 will still be endemic — that is to say, widespread — though it should no longer be a crisis of pandemic proportion. It will be a chronic problem that will continue to frighten a significant portion of our population. As Professor Christakis noted, it may well be until 2023 before a new normal is established.”

Others, like Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee, point out COVID is a worldwide problem and suggest that we should be ready for a possible second wave and third wave, and even a forth wave of the pandemic. Atul Gawande and Siddhartha Mukherjee on the State of the Pandemic, “The New Yorker Radio Hour.

The B1617 and B117 variants of the virus are already in the United States.  Should we be Worried About India’s Double Mutant Covid-19 Variant, “The Straits Times.”  Vaccine hesitancy is a potential disaster as we may not get enough herd immunity to keep variants from getting a foothold. We do not yet know if Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will protect us from these and other variants. Pfizer, Moderna test vaccine strategies against new COVID-19 variants

I do not want to push the panic button either. I really looks like the pandemic phase of COVID-19 will soon be over. Vermont had only 6 new cases on Sunday, and that’s terrific. But assuming that it is over, and acting on that assumption, could prove a mistake, and it could prove to be one of serious proportion.

I am a lawyer, not an epidemiologist or a virologist. But I sense that even here in Vermont — where we have been as careful as anywhere I know — there is a building complacency that may prevent our policy makers from planning for the worst, even as we all hope for the best. We are all so very tired of the steps we have needed to take to protect ourselves for the virus. We share an intense desire to put this extraordinarily difficult time behind us.

I support H. 417 as an interim reform that will help get jury trials restarted in Vermont in the near term, even if we have some COVID related problems. (Pandemic or no pandemic, we need to make some basic reforms in jury trial procedure, but that is a subject for another day).

It has been 14 months since we have had a jury trial in State Court in Vermont. For now, even with the jury restart plans that our Judiciary is developing, we could easily find ourselves unable to routinely conduct jury trials for another 18 months or so. That  is a huge access to justice issue on both the criminal and civil sides of the docket. I hope that the Legislature, or the Vermont Supreme Court, will adopt 6 person juries in civil court as an interim measure to help put us in a position to try jury cases again as soon as possible.


Photo of Rich Cassidy Rich Cassidy

Rich Cassidy is a Vermont personal injury and employment lawyer. He also works regularly as a mediator and arbitrator.

A founder of Rich Cassidy Law, he has more than 40 years of experience with the practice of law in Vermont. Over the years…

Rich Cassidy is a Vermont personal injury and employment lawyer. He also works regularly as a mediator and arbitrator.

A founder of Rich Cassidy Law, he has more than 40 years of experience with the practice of law in Vermont. Over the years, his practice has changed substantially. As a result, Rich has represented all sides in many kinds of disputes: plaintiffs and defendants, employers and employees, injured parties and insurance companies. He believes that the breadth of his experience benefits all of his clients.

He is proud to represent the Burlington Police Officers Association and United Nurses & Allied Professionals.

For many years, Rich’s personal injury practice has been limited to representing injured persons and his labor and employment practice has been focused on representing employees. He enjoys the challenge of representing individuals in a world that seems increasingly dominated by large corporations and powerful institutions.

He has significant experience with litigation and alternative dispute resolution involving higher education, public education, public safety, health care, municipalities and manufacturing. His clients have included college students, faculty, and administrators as well as individuals, businesses, governmental agencies, and not-for-profit entities. He represents both labor unions and individuals in collective bargaining relationships. Many of his individual clients in employment law cases begin work with him under Limited Scope Representation Agreements.

He has also advocated for individuals, businesses and governments in a broad range of civil litigation, including in construction cases, cases under the Uniform Commercial Code, and contract and business tort claims.

In addition to his work as a litigator and counselor, he has served as a mediator and arbitrator and is a member of the Panel of Early Neutral Evaluators for the United States District Court for the District of Vermont and the early neutral evaluation panels for the Vermont Environmental Court and Vermont Superior Courts.

Rich believes that legal process can serve the ends of justice and has been active in work to improve the law throughout his career. For details see our public service page.

When he’s not practicing law or in a committee meeting, Rich enjoys reading, walking his dog, Sophie, skiing, swimming, and rowing his Adirondack Guide Boat on Lake Champlain.



·         Albany Law School Union University, Albany, New York

    • J.D. – 1978

·         University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont

    • B.A. – 1975

·         Mount Saint Joseph Academy, Rutland, Vermont

    • College Preparatory Diploma – 1967 -1971

Bar Admissions:

·         Vermont, 1979

·         New York, 1979

·         U.S. District Court District of Vermont, 1979

·         U.S. District Court Northern District of New York

·         U.S. Court of Appeals 2nd Circuit, 1986

·         U.S. Supreme Court, 1990

Honors and Awards:

·         Jonathon B. Chase Award, ACLU of Vermont, Inc., 1990

·         Grassroots Award, American Bar Association, 2009

·         Equal Justice for All Award, American Bar Association, 2008

·         President’s Award, Vermont Bar Association, 2015

Professional Associations and Memberships:

·         Uniform Law Commission

    • President, 2015 – 2017
    • Executive Committee, Member
    • Scope & Program Committee, Chair, Member
    • Secretary
    • Uniform Collateral Consequences of Conviction Act, Drafting Committee Chair
    • Apportionment of Tort Responsibility Act, Member, Drafting Committee
    • Revised Uniform Arbitration Act, Member, Drafting Committee
    • The Model Punitive Damages Act, Member, Drafting Committee
    • Covenants Not to Compete Drafting Committee, Chair, 2020 to present
    • Developments in Privacy Law Committee, 2020 to present
    • Vermont Member, 1994 – Present

·         American Bar Association, 1978 – Present

    • Board of Governors, 2005 – 2008
    • American Bar Association, House of Delegates, 1999 – 2015

·         American Counsel Association, President, 2009 – 2010

    • Director

·         American Law Institute, Elected Member, 2015 – Present

·         Vermont Association for Justice, Member

·         Vermont Trial Lawyers Association, Member

·         Vermont Employment Lawyers Association, Founding Member, Past President, Treasurer

·         Vermont Bar Association, Member, 1978- Present


Past Employment:

·         Hon. Robert W. Larrow of the Vermont Supreme Court, Law Clerk, 1978 – 1979

·         Chief Justice Albert W. Barney, Jr., Vermont Supreme Court, Chief Law Clerk, 1979 – 1980

·         Law Office of David C. Drew, Associate Attorney, 1980 – 1982

·         Hoff, Wilson, Powell and Lang, P.C., 1982 – 1986

·         Hoff, Wilson, Powell and Lang, P.C., Shareholder, 1986 – 1989

·         Hoff Curtis, President and Shareholder, 1989 – 2016


Rich is a frequent writer and speaker on legal topics. He has lectured on trial practice, employment, arbitration, mediation, and construction law subjects before the American Bar Association, the National Employment Lawyers’ Association, the Vermont Bar Association, the Vermont Trial Lawyers Association, and the Vermont Employment Lawyers’ Association.

He has been selected for inclusion in Best Lawyers® and New England Super Lawyers® by his peers. (Listing in The Best Lawyers in America® or Super Lawyers® does not guarantee a desired result in a legal case or that listed lawyers are necessarily more skilled than lawyers who are not listed in such publications.) He was the 2013 “Best Lawyer of the Year” for Employment Law – Individuals and the 2015 “Best Mediator of the Year.”

His blog, On is widely read by legal professionals and is syndicated on Lex Blog.