• He has received the following awards and recognitions:Photo of Robert Appel

2013 Dr. M.L. King Community Service Award, Greater Burlington Multicultural Center

2013 Vermont –National Education Human & Civil Rights Award

2012 Burlington Police Department Certificate of Appreciation

2001 Vermont Bar Association Service Award

2001 Consumer Advisory Board (Child Welfare) Award of Excellence

1996 Vermont Trial Lawyers Association Outstanding  Public Service Award

Robert has also delivered workshops and seminars on a variety of topics and is often a guest columnist or speaker in newspapers and on radio and television stations throughout the area. He served a wide variety of legislative study committees and judicial task forces during his service with the Office of Defender General and the Human Rights Commission.  He was a member of both the Governor’s Criminal Justice Cabinet and Vermont’s  Advisory Committee on the Rules of Criminal Procedure.  Robert has also taught criminal law at Woodbury College.

Some of Robert’s more prominent cases and appearances can be reviewed by clicking the links below.




Robert Appel is a civil rights and criminal defense lawyer practicing in Burlington.  He was admitted to practice law in 1984 after a successful reading law clerkship rather than attending law school.  Robert maintains an active litigation practice having tried numerous cases to verdicts and routinely appearing before the Vermont Supreme Court.

Robert is dedicated to doing his utmost to advance the interests of his clients.  He views his role as both a zealous advocate as well as a counselor to his clients.  He believes that the client should be empowered to assist to the extent possible in supporting his representation.  Robert takes a holistic approach to the practice of law in considering not only the legal needs of his clients but also their emotional well-being.

Robert retired from the State of Vermont in 2012 after leading the Vermont Human Rights Commission for more than a decade, and was defender general, Vermont’s chief public defender, during the prior eight years.  He held a variety of investigative and attorney positions during his state career including civil rights investigator, correctional defender, public defender and chief of the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Unit.  Through his legislative and legal advocacy, Robert has been active in setting and implementing criminal justice reform policies as well as striving to ensure that all students feel safe in school.  He is well known throughout Vermont as an advocate for social and racial justice.

Robert presently serves on the boards of the following organization-- ACLU-VT, Vermont Legal Aid, Vermonters for Criminal Justice and is a member of the Vermont Bar Association, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and a Vermont State Police Committee on “Fair and Impartial Policing.”  His work is focused on reducing racial disparities in criminal justice and school disciplinary actions, preventing the incarceration of persons with mental disabilities and addiction issues and reversing the current regime of mass incarceration.

Robert has also served in a variety of municipal offices former home town, Woodbury, including member and chair of both the planning commission and the school board also serving on the Orleans Southwest Supervisory Union board.  Robert was also the Town Moderator for several years in Woodbury. He attended Haverford College, Woodbury Associates and graduated from Goddard College.