Benson D. Scotch

MONTPELIER, VT – Benson D. Scotch, 83, died Jan. 29, 2018, at McClure Miller VNA Respite House in Colchester, after a brief illness. He was born March 17, 1934, in Elizabeth, New Jersey, to Maurice and Margaret Scotch.

He received his B.A. from Yale University in 1956 before joining the Army as a writer for the recruiting service in New York City, where he worked for two years. Mr. Scotch graduated from Harvard Law School in 1961.

After practicing law in New York and Zurich, Switzerland, he moved to Montpelier in 1972, serving Attorney General Jim Jeffords as assistant attorney general, where he successfully defended the Vermont Container Deposit Law. Known as the “Bottle Bill,” it “turned out to be the touchstone issue for a new kind of politics in Vermont,” according to 1976 U.S. Senate candidate Scott Skinner.

From 1981-1985, Mr. Scotch served Sen. Patrick Leahy on the Constitution Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington, D.C. He then returned to Montpelier to work as chief staff attorney of the Vermont Supreme Court, a post he held for 15 years. Before retiring, Mr. Scotch served as the executive director of the ACLU of Vermont for three years, where he drafted Vermont’s landmark civil union legislation in 2000. Upon his appointment, Senator Leahy told The Times Argus, “He is extraordinarily talented and conscientious. He began with a conscience and he has never lost it.”

The Vermont Secretary of State honored him with an Enduring Democracy Award in 2006. In 2009, Mr. Scotch was co-organizer of a symposium at the Georgetown University Law Center, “Who Decides About War,” exploring the constitutional, political, strategic and historical factors influencing the use of America’s military force. He continued as an activist and advocate for free speech, civil rights and peaceful conflict resolution until the end of his life. Mr. Scotch was a founding member of the Onion River Arts Council and former president of the Craftsbury Chamber Players. He served on the board of the Pyralisk Art Center and the Holocaust Advisory Board at the University of Vermont. For many years, his “That’s the Way I See It” radio commentaries were broadcast on WNCS.

Survivors include his wife of 54 years, Barbara (Ernst) Scotch; daughters Mariza Scotch, of Brooklyn, New York, and Sarah Scotch, of Montpelier; son Oliver Scotch, of South Burlington; sister Barbara Schreiber, of New City, New York; and a granddaughter. Burial will take place in Montpelier in Green Mount Cemetery during a private service. A celebration of life will follow in the spring. Memorial contributions can be made to the ACLU Foundation; or to a preferred charitable organization.

Published in The Times Argus on Jan. 31, 2018.