01.15.14

Leahy Commends Judge Sessions For Years Of Service To Vermont

State’s Longest-Serving Judge Announces He Is Taking Senior Status This Year

WASHINGTON (Wednesday, January 15, 2014) – U.S. District Court Judge William Sessions on Wednesday informed the President that he will be taking senior status after 18 years on the federal bench.  U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) praised Sessions for his years of service and vowed to find a highly qualified nominee for the next vacancy on the federal bench in Vermont.

“I commend Judge Sessions for his years of service to our state and to this Nation. His commitment to the rule of law has made him among the most respected federal judges in the country. The people of Vermont are fortunate that Judge Sessions will continue to serve as a senior judge even after a nominee is appointed to replace him. Marcelle and I are fortunate to call Bill and Abi our friends,” Leahy said, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Sessions was unanimously confirmed to the district court in 1995, and served as its chief judge from 2002 to 2010. He also served for a decade on the United States Sentencing Commission and in 2009 was appointed by President Obama to serve as its chairman. The Senate unanimously confirmed him to that position, which he held for two years. Prior to his judicial service, Judge Sessions worked in private practice, as an adjunct professor at Vermont Law School, and in the Public Defender’s Office of Addison County.  He received his B.A. from Middlebury College in 1969, and his J.D. from George Washington University Law School in 1972.

The District Court in Vermont is at full strength with two active judges currently serving, although the announcement that Judge Sessions is taking senior status will soon create a vacancy. Leahy will work with Senator Bernie Sanders (I), Representative Peter Welch (D) and the Vermont Bar Association to convene a merit commission to find a highly qualified replacement, just as he did in 2009 after Judge J. Garvan Murtha announced his intention to take senior status. After reviewing the commission’s work and consulting with the Vermont delegation, Leahy recommended Judge Christina Reiss to fill the vacancy. President Obama accepted Leahy’s recommendation, and Reiss was eventually confirmed, becoming the first woman in Vermont to serve on the district court. She later became chief judge in 2010.

“Judicial selection commissions are not required and take some extra effort, but I believe they work well in finding qualified candidates who are grounded by their experience in the community,” Leahy said. “I believe that our commission structure also sets a good example for other states, and I look forward to continuing this important practice to ensure Vermont has a full complement of highly qualified judges on the federal bench.”

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