Shelley Gartner

Gartner, Shelley

Time Period

1940 to Today

Subject Categories

Equal Rights, Law, Social Work

Notable Facts

Family Court magistrate; one of the first 100 women admitted to Vermont Bar Association

Personal Information

Date of Birth


Primary Residence




Historical Significance

Shelley Gartner was born in Brooklyn, New York, and earned degrees from the University of Buffalo (B.A. in History and Secondary Education) and the New England School of Law (Juris Doctorate). In 1977, she was admitted to the Vermont Bar, one of the first 100 women to become members of the Vermont Bar Association. From 1978 to 1990, Gartner served as a staff attorney and then supervising staff attorney of the legal division of the Vermont Office of Child Support.

In 1990, Governor Madeleine Kunin appointed Gartner as one of four new Family Court Magistrates. The Vermont Family Court was created by the legislature in order to consolidate and hasten the handling of the 40% of Vermont court cases that pertain to family matters, including divorce, custody, domestic violence, child support, juvenile crime, and mental health issues. As a Magistrate, Gartner rides circuit between courts in Rutland, Addison, and Bennington Counties, and hears mainly child support cases.

Vermont's first woman-led administration was a unique group, with a large number of woman appointees, many of who were the first women to hold their positions. In 1986, 5 of 8 people in Kunin's inner staff were women, she had appointed women to 15 of 33 agency and department head positions, and to 169 of the 433 positions on commissions and boards. Many state boards, including the Vermont Industrial Development Authority, Vermont Labor Relations Board, the Vermont Veteran's Home in Bennington, Transportation Board, and Judicial Nominating Board, were all male until the Kunin administration. The Governor's Commission on the Status of Women under Madeleine Kunin, whose goal was to find and appoint more women to boards and committees, succeeded in significantly increasing the representation of women in state government positions. In 1969, only 14% of board and commission appointees were women, in 1979, there were 22%, and in the Kunin administration in 1986, 39% of appointees were women.

Governor Howard Dean reappointed Gartner in 1996 and 2002 to six-year terms as a Family Court magistrate. In 2008, Governor Jim Douglas appointed her to her fourth term. She has served as magistrate for over 18 years, and is the only original magistrate still serving Vermont's Family Court.

Gartner is active in the Vermont Bar Association, American Bar Association, National Association of Women Judges, and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Judges. In Vermont, she has been involved with numerous community and arts organizations, including Rutland First Night, the Rutland Jewish Center, the Chaffee Arts Council, and the Crossroads Arts Council.

Organizations or Movements

  • Kunin administration
  • Vermont Family Court
  • Vermont Bar Association
  • Vermont Office of Child Support
  • National Council of Juvenile and Family Judges
  • Board of Directors of First Night Rutland
  • American Bar Association
  • Vermont Trial Judges Association
  • National Association of Women Judges
  • Rutland Jewish Center
  • Chaffee Arts Council
  • Crossroads Arts Council


  • Family Court magistrate
  • Supervising Staff Attorney in the Vermont Office of Child Support


  • University of Buffalo, 1972
  • New England School of Law, 1975

Additional Information (Bibliography)

  • "Magistrates appointed to Family Court," Burlington Free Press, 9/13/1990, 1B:2.

  • "Vermont Family Court opens for business," Burlington Free Press, 10/2/1990, 1A:2.

  • "Child Support," Rutland Herald, 11/30/1999, 11:2.

  • "Vermont First 100: Celebrating Vermont's First 100 women lawyers 1902-1978," Vermont Bar Association