Gravel & Shea PC

January 2019

Gravel & Shea Partner Working to Help Pass Equal Rights Amendment


Gravel & Shea Partner Michelle Farkas joined Vermont Senator Ginny Lyons and other panelists at a conference held last weekend to provide information about an upcoming action to amend the Vermont Constitution.

The Champlain Valley League of Women Voters presented the event: Building Equality – Discussing an Inclusive Equal Rights Amendment for Vermont.  The panel also included Cary Brown, Executive Director of the Vermont Commission on Women, and Ella Spottswood, Deputy Attorney General in the Vermont Attorney General’s Office.

Farkas served on the initial committee that developed an Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) resolution in 2018 (S.R. 11), which was passed by the Vermont Senate that same year. The resolution called for a constitutional amendment to be offered in 2019 that would provide that “equal protection under the law shall not be denied or abridged because of race, sex, age, religion, creed, color, familial status, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or national origin.”

Under the Vermont Constitution, amendments can only be introduced every four years. If they’re passed by both chambers in the year they’re offered, they must go up for vote and pass again in the next legislative session, and then be approved by a public referendum. 2019 is the appropriate year for introduction of a new amendment, and the earliest it could become effective is 2022.

Passage of a similar amendment was attempted in the 1980s but failed the public referendum. That amendment, says Farkas, was less inclusive. “That was just addressing gender. This is addressing many protected classes.”

Speaking to a reporter after the event, Farkas explained why an amendment is important. “Once it’s there, it’s also very hard to unravel. [I]t…ensures and guarantees these equal protections going forward.”

Gravel & Shea Completes Vermont’s First 100% Cryptocurrency Real Estate Transaction on the Blockchain


A 12-foot strip of land in the City of Burlington provided the opportunity to close an innovative real estate transaction this month. Dozens of homes in Burlington’s South End, including one along Lyman Avenue, back up to a 12-foot strip of land that was historically owned by a public utility but is no longer used in that capacity. The strip of land is now owned by an individual who resides in North Carolina.

Several of the homeowners had done boundary adjustments to purchase the strip of land behind their homes, but the cost of the process can be prohibitive to some landowners. With support from Propy and using their online platform, one of the Lyman Avenue homeowners worked with Michelle Farkas, real estate partner at Gravel & Shea, to purchase the strip of land directly behind their home.

Farkas reached out to the existing owner of the strip of land, who agreed to put the strip up for sale on the Propy platform. Both the seller and the purchaser created Coinbase accounts. The purchaser (the Lyman Avenue homeowner) then accepted the offer on the platform.

Using the blockchain platform, they went through the purchase and sale process, transferring the cryptocurrency with Gravel & Shea acting as escrow agents to hold the funds, performing a title search and due diligence, and completing the transaction with the creation of the deed. The deal closed and was solidified with a deed that was recorded in the City of Burlington Land Records, and includes a hash and QR code recorded on the blockchain.

This transaction represents the first transaction in Vermont completed from offer through closing on the blockchain and demonstrates the potential ease of property transactions in the future (especially for remote buyers and sellers).

Gravel & Shea’s Blockchain Technology group specializes in analyzing and resolving legal issues related to blockchain technology.