Vermont judge wins National Judicial College’s highest honor

By Michelle Werdann

Vermont judge David T. Suntag has been awarded the highest teaching honor of The National Judicial College, the V. Robert Payant Award for Faculty Excellence.

A superior court judge in Windham County who took active/retired status in 2015, Judge Suntag has been a member of the NJC faculty since 2004. During that time he has taught in 48 courses, including General Jurisdiction, Domestic Violence, Enhancing Judicial Bench Skills, and Best Practices for Handling Cases with Self-Represented Litigants.

His courses are known for their use of videos, cartoons and music, and for many years he has been among the top five faculty members in terms of hours of teaching donated to the NJC.

“His sense of humor brings joy to the classroom – even when he’s discussing difficult topics,” said William Brunson, the College’s director of special projects, custom courses and international programs.

Judge Suntag has presided over criminal, family and civil dockets as well as multi-jurisdictional rural courts. He helped create and presided over the first integrated domestic violence docket in Vermont and has written for the College about sensitive treatment of abuse victims in court.

Prior to being appointed to the bench in 1990, he practiced law as a trial attorney. He also served as chief of the Vermont Attorney General’s Criminal Justice Division and chief counsel to the Vermont Commissioner of Corrections.

He has taught for numerous other judicial education organizations, including the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, Association of Administrative Law Judges, and the Contract Board of Appeals.

He received his J.D. from Vermont Law School.

The Payant Award is named for a past CEO of the College, V. Robert Payant, who taught more than 100 courses. The annual Payant Award recognizes exceptional faculty members who have been teaching at the College for at least 15 years. Judge Suntag is the 2020 honoree.

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Created more than a half-century ago at the recommendation of a U.S. Supreme Court justice, The National Judicial College remains the only educational institution in the United States that teaches courtroom skills to judges of all types from all over the country, Indian Country and abroad. The categories of judges served by this nonprofit and nonpartisan institution, based in Reno, Nevada, since 1964, decide more than 95 percent of cases in the United States

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