Peter Hall, lone Vermont judge on federal appeals court, dies at 72

Peter Hall, lone Vermont judge on federal appeals court, dies at 72

U.S. Judge Peter Hall, left, and Vermont Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul Rieber outside the Vermont Statehouse on Jan. 7, 2021. Photo courtesy of Hazel Brewster

Updated at 1:57 p.m.

Judge Peter Hall died early Thursday morning, one week after announcing he would step back from the region’s federal appellate court.

Hall, 72, was the lone Vermonter on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, which is based in New York City. Judge Geoffrey Crawford, Vermont’s chief federal district court judge, confirmed the news. 

The cause of Hall’s death was not immediately available.

Hall announced last Thursday that he was taking “senior status” on the court, a form of semi-retirement. His decision allowed for President Joe Biden to appoint a successor, likely flipping the court from a 7-6 majority of Republican appointees to a slight Democratic majority, Bloomberg Law reported at the time.   

The influential 2nd Circuit hears appeals for federal districts in Connecticut, New York and Vermont.  

Hall, who worked for a Rutland law firm earlier in his career, continued to keep chambers in an office in the Rutland federal building, as well as one at the court in New York City. 

President George W. Bush appointed Hall to the post in December 2003 on the recommendation of Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. He was confirmed by the Senate in June 2004.

Jerry O’Neill, a Burlington attorney who worked with Hall when they both were federal prosecutors, said last week that Hall held what some call “Vermont’s seat” on the 13-member court.

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Hall served as U.S. attorney for Vermont — the state’s top federal prosecutor — from 2001 until his appointment to the appeals court. He is also a past president of the Vermont Bar Association. 

Molly Gray is sworn in as Lt. Governor by the U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Peter Hall at the Statehouse in Montpelier on Thursday, January 7, 2021. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

“It’s such a deep loss for the state,” said Lt. Gov. Molly Gray, who served as a law clerk for Hall. She described him as a “personal mentor to me and so many Vermonters.” 

Gray added that Hall “defines integrity.” It was Hall who swore Gray in as lieutenant governor in January.   

“This is someone who has committed his life to service and the rule of law,” she said, “and despite the deteriorating health situation fought hard to do his work and do his job ’til last Thursday.”

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