State Government

Daughter of refugees from Communist China named to VT Supreme Court


Nancy Waples Will Be First Woman of Color to Serve on State’s Top Court

Vermont Supreme Court Justice Nancy Waples

Governor Phil Scott has named Nancy Waples of Hinesburg to the Vermont Supreme Court. Judge Waples has served on the Vermont Superior Court since 2015.

“As I have said, there are few responsibilities a governor has that are more significant than naming a justice to the Supreme Court,” said Governor Scott. “Character, competence, commitment, and chemistry are the qualities I seek when deciding on an appointment. There is no doubt Judge Waples possesses these attributes and will excel on the Court. Judge Waples has already served the State with distinction, earning the respect of her colleagues, members of the Bar and those who have come before her. Her story, perspective and skills will make her an exceptional justice, and I’m proud to make this historic appointment.”  

Judge Waples is the daughter of Chinese immigrants who fled the communist revolution in China.  Because her parents were unable to immigrate to the U.S. due to the exclusion laws, they made their way to Chinatown in Toronto, Canada. When the exclusion laws were replaced by ethnic quotas, only her father could immigrate to the U.S. and the family was separated for four years. When they were able to reunite in the U.S., her family earned a living, working together, in their small Chinese restaurant outside of New York City. Growing up working in her parents’ restaurant, she learned to speak English at the age of nine. 

“My parents traveled halfway around the world with literally nothing more than the clothes on their backs to live in a place that didn’t speak their language, where they didn’t have any friends or family,” said Judge Waples. “They came here seeking greater opportunities and longed for a life of dignity and decency. They share my pride in receiving this historic appointment. I want to acknowledge my deep gratitude to Governor Scott for the confidence he has placed in me with this nomination, and I am proud to be part of his vision to improve the professional diversity and legitimacy of our courts. I hope my appointment inspires other people of color to reach outside of their comfort zone and climb the same ladder I climbed, and I will be there to lend my hand.”

After graduation from law school, Judge Waples began her career as a prosecutor in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office in New York City. She split her tenure between the appeals bureau and the trial division. She was also assigned to the civil litigation unit, where she represented the district attorney in civil actions. She also served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Vermont. She served in the criminal division in the Rutland Office prosecuting general crimes in the southern part of the state. She has extensive trial and appellate experience in both the state and federal courts of New York and Vermont. 

Judge Waples has worked at private firms in Vermont and prior to her appointment as a Vermont Superior Court judge, she served by appointment from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals as the Criminal Justice Act Coordinator for the District of Vermont, through which she oversaw the panel of private attorneys assigned to represent the indigent clients in federal criminal cases. In addition to other civic activity, she has served as president of the Board of Directors of Spectrum Youth and Services, president of the Vermont Youth Orchestra, public relations chair for the Lake Champlain Junior League and volunteered in clinics and provided translation services to the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program.

Judge Waples graduated from the College of William and Mary, receiving a Bachelor of Arts, and she earned her Juris Doctor from St. John’s University School of Law. Judge Waples is married to Greg Waples and they have two sons who are currently law students living in New York City. She is fluent in the Chinese language.

Judge Waples will fill the seat previously held by Justice Beth Robinson, who was appointed by the President and confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Details on the swearing-in will be announced in the coming days.

A picture of Judge Waples can be found by clicking here.

4 replies »

  1. Seems like every other article in VT explains that she’s the first woman of color before her qualifications and that’s the most important thing.

    Thank you Guy Page for not being a racist, and explaining her qualifications rather than her color.

    Does anyone else know who else was in the running for this?

    Since all of the other reporting seems to care more about her color, and Phil Scott seems completely preoccupied with racism, I wonder if there were other candidates that also had comparable qualifications. In other words did governor Scott choose her because of her color or was she the best candidate?

  2. Are people naive, white is a color. Gov. Scott should have said that Judge Waples is the first Yellow person to be put on the Vermont Supreme Court. There is also Black, blue black, Red, blanco, negro, trigueno, Indio, Jabao, Moreno, and Mulatta. So please, when a person of color is put forward, its only appropriate to ask exactly what color that may be. MLK Jr. would be doing flips in his grave. I guess color gives a different perspective. I wonder if Chinese heritage environment means that censorship, social score penalties, surveillance, and total obedience to authority taints her decisions as a constitutional lawyer?

  3. Seriously, if her family fled communism and she’s standing for freedom and has the credentials, I’ll stand with her. All of us need to better understand the communist agenda and be ready to stand up for our rights.

    My family took underwing Chinese Vietnamese refugees and a Chinese refugee family. The Chinese have strong work and family ethics. These characteristics are commendable. America was built on these values. I hope those that view race as a reason to promote people over experience and credentials will be surprised by her dedication to integrity and righteous value system.

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