Confrontation between lawyers at Ruescher trial


Ben Elfland, Staff Writer

Tears were shed in the courtroom April 19, not by a witness on the stand — but by a lawyer at the defendant’s table.

A dispute between lawyers resulted in a near hour-long break and tears during former UVM employee Cynthia Ruescher’s  gender discrimination trial against the University Thursday.

“It’s okay sweetie,” UVM lawyer Karen McAndrews said as she rubbed her colleague’s back after the confrontation. “We don’t need to be yelled at.”  

Earlier in the afternoon, a member of UVM’s legal team, Kendall Hoechst, asked for time to examine a new piece of evidence presented by Ruescher before it was submitted. The judge allowed this.

Ruescher’s lawyer, Siobhan McCloskey, said that UVM’s team had also presented documents that she had never seen earlier in the trial, but had not made an objection.

Later, the judge called for a brief midafternoon break and left the room.

During the break, Hoechst walked over to Ruescher’s table and asked her lawyer if she would review a document that UVM planned to use as evidence.

Ruescher’s lawyer, McCloskey, refused to approve the evidence, saying she did not have enough time to read the document carefully before the trial resumed.

“Do you see how think that thing is?” she said. “I am not going to be pressured into another piece of garbage,”

McCloskey went on to list moments in the trial in which she felt she had not been given a fair warning of what evidence was going to be presented.

Shortly after the incident, Hoechst left the courtroom in tears. She returned about thirty minutes later.

The break, which was called around 2:15 p.m. and meant to last a few minutes, was extended until 3:15 p.m. to allow Ruescher and her lawyer to deliberate.  

With McCloskey and her client gone, UVM’s team of lawyers discussed among themselves instances when they had been similarly caught off guard.

McCloskey returned to the courtroom at 2:57 p.m., and apologized to Hoechst.

By 3:15 p.m., members of the UVM team were laughing and making after-work plans.