Shumlin Picks Orange County Deputy Prosecutor to Head Windsor County State’s Attorney Office

Michael Kainen on November 7, 2006. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

Michael Kainen on November 7, 2006. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

Gov. Peter Shumlin has named former Hartford State. Rep Michael Kainen as Windsor County State’s Attorney , handing the coveted position to a former Republican who has worked as both a prosecutor and defense attorney.

Kainen, a deputy state’s attorney in Orange County, was announced yesterday as the replacement for longtime Windsor County State’s Attorney Robert Sand, and was selected over Sand’s deputy and preferred successor, David Cahill, a Norwich Democrat.

“I don’t know that people who do business with the office would see any significant changes,” Kainen, 47, said in an interview. “I look for a reasoned and measured response. I’m not looking to put everybody in jail. It is a (valuable) resource — it costs a lot of money, and ought to be used only when no other forms of rehabilitation are going to work, or incapacitation is required.”

Kainen will serve the remainder of Sand’s four year term, which expires in November 2014. Sand resigned in January after 15 years to take a job in Shumlin’s administration designing statewide alternative sentencing programs for repeat drunken driving offenders . Kainen said he intends to seek re-election.

In a prepared statement, Shumlin cited Kainen’s deep resume. Kainen has worked in both criminal and civil law, occasionally served as an substitute judge, ran the Vermont Sentencing Commission and teaches at Community College of Vermont.

“Michael’s broad experience in civil and criminal practice, as well as his commitment to teaching and public service, make him a great choice to replace Bobby Sand,” Shumlin said.

Shumlin said that Kainen is known for having a common sense approach to the law, and is considered a consensus builder.

Cahill congratulated Kainen, and said he would remain in public service, though he did not commit to staying in his post, where he has become known for his expertise in electronic evidence, such as cell phone records, that have become crucial to criminal prosecutions.

“It was a hard fought campaign among colleagues, and I wish him the best,” Cahill, 33, said in a prepared statement. “I look forward to playing a continued role in public service and in modernizing our criminal justice system for the benefit of all of its stakeholders.”

Cahill, who has worked for Sand for seven years, said that he had lined up supporters from across the criminal justice system, including Sand, “our county’s police chiefs, members of the defense bar, and the nearly 100 rank-and-file law enforcement officers who signed a petition on my behalf.”

“It was an honor to have earned the trust and confidence of the many people who do the difficult, often thankless work of delivering justice to crime victims, offenders, and the taxpaying public,” Cahill said.

Kainen served as a Republican in the state House of Representatives from 1998 to 2006. He sat on the Judiciary Committee and was known as a moderate. He said that he now considers himself a Democrat. Kainen’s stint at the Statehouse overlapped with Shumlin’s, who served in the state Senate from 1992 to 2002. Kainen said that he was social acquaintance of Shumlin’s, but that the two were not particularly close.

His wife, Michelle Kainen, is a lawyer who focuses on civil cases and bankruptcy, but has a few pending criminal cases in Windsor County. Kainen said he would devise a way — either by insulating one of his deputies from his supervision, or bringing in an outside prosecutor — to avoid influencing her cases. In the future, he said, Michelle Kainen would not work for Windsor County criminal defendants.

“We’ll have to figure that out,” Kainen said.

Sand made waves in 2007 when he publicly advocated for the decriminalization of marijuana. Kainen said he shares Sand’s philosophy and supports a bill in the state Senate that would decriminalize possession of an ounce of marijuana.

“We waste a huge amount of time. Police take the marijuana, write an affidavit, bring it to us, they screen it. ... It would be easier if we sent it to the traffic bureau and somebody paid a $50 fine and we’re done,” Kainen said.

A 1992 Vermont Law School graduate, Kainen worked in recent years as a prosecutor in Orange County. He acknowledged that he has long been interested in the top job in Windsor County, which pays $92,000 a year. In Orange County, where he earned $74,000, Kainen handled an array of juvenile and criminal cases, including the murder case against a Bradford woman accused of shooting a Newbury, Vt., man on Christmas Day.

“David (Cahill) is incredibly smart. He ... has demonstrated his commitment to public safety in Windsor County, and he has been loyal to me and the office, so I am loyal to him and disappointed for him,” Sand said in an interview. “(But) I think Michael will be an excellent state’s attorney. I will have no regrets about handing over my keys and turning over my desk to him.”

Mark Davis can be reached at or 603-727-3304.