Video And Text Of Leahy's Senate Floor Tribute To The Late 2nd Circuit Court Judge Peter Hall
Senator Leahy late Wednesday took the Senate Floor to pay tribute to the late Peter Hall, Judge on the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals - - - -
VIDEO LINK: https://youtu.be/-c48JdNikLg
Wednesday, March 25, 2021
Remembering Judge Peter W. Hall
Madam President, now on an entirely different matter, I want to speak
about a dear friend, U.S. Second Circuit Court Judge Peter Hall, who
died on March 11.
Ever since then, I have thought back to a conversation I had with
him--just like many, many conversations I had with Judge Hall over the
years--just a few days before he died. He was telling me about the
health concerns he had, very serious ones, but that he was going to try
one other thing that weekend that he had hoped may give him a longer
spell of life, but it didn't. It was only a matter of days after that
last conversation. As I said, it was one of many I had with him. A few
days after that last conversation, he died. He died on March 11, just 1
week after announcing his decision to take senior status.
Chief judge of the Second Circuit, Debra Ann Livingston, gave a
remarkable tribute in which she acknowledged his death.
In speaking for the court, Chief Judge Livingston said:
Judge Hall was our beloved colleague, and this is a
grievous loss for our Court and for all of our judges. Over
the course of nearly 17 years on the Court of Appeals, Judge
Hall distinguished himself as a thoughtful and humane jurist.
He was generous with his colleagues and ever considerate in
matters both big and small. Judge Hall was committed to
public service and taught us all by his example. He was a
kind and very dear friend. This is a sad day for the judges
of the Court of Appeals.
A deeper read of the two-page announcement offered more insights that
help us understand what made Judge Hall the exceptional jurist that he
was. Noting that Judge Hall left a ``lasting mark'' on a generation of
law clerks, Chief Judge Livingston shared an anecdote as was told by
one of those clerks.
One winter morning we were working away in chambers, and he
had not turned up. Not unusual, but we were all wondering if
something had happened. He rolled in midday with his dirty
work pants and torn flannel shirt--in other words, no more
haggard than usual. He explained that he had taken his truck
through the woods that morning after taking care of the
horses but had gotten stuck. Luckily, he had an axe, so it
was only a matter of chopping down a few trees to put under
the truck tires for traction. He freed himself and made his
way into chambers like it was nothing--just another day on
the Second Circuit.
Chief Judge Livingston repeated that story, told by one of Judge
But, you know, the story speaks to the person Judge Hall was: never
too important to carry out the chores of the day; never too far from
the Vermont woods that he loved so much.
I don't know how many times I would talk with him, and we might talk
a little bit about the law or things like that, and then we would
quickly go to tales of other Vermonters we knew, the things they had
done, the places that we liked especially in our State.
And I thought, as more tributes have flooded in, the most common
remembrances, of Judge Hall include words such as ``decent,''
``gentle,'' and ``caring.''
His long career, which spanned years in both private practice and as
a Federal prosecutor before joining the bench, demonstrated his
commitment to the rule of law. It was a commitment that he showed early
on when he served as president of the Legal Aid Clinic, while still
earning his juris doctorate at Cornell Law School.
When I was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2003, I was
proud to recommend Peter Hall for the circuit court vacancy left by the
passing of another dear friend, Judge Fred I. Parker. And it was no
surprise to me that his nomination was met with very little resistance,
either from the White House or from Republicans and Democrats alike on
the Judiciary Committee.
I teased him sometimes about the fact that he was born in Hartford,
CT, but moved to Vermont at the age of 11. Did that make him a real
Vermonter? And the reaction I got from him was: Patrick, my great-
great-grandfather served as Governor of Vermont in the mid-1850s. I had
to admit, the judge had me there.
He always considered Vermont his home, and we are grateful that he
did. Marcelle and I enjoyed our friendship, and we send our sincere
condolences to his wife Maria Dunton and his five children and his five
I would also note, in concluding, that Judge Hall's former law clerks
released a touching tribute, and I ask consent--and I will ask consent
in a moment that it be printed in the Record, along with a list of
their names, over 60 law clerks.
Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that at the conclusion of my
remarks, their statement and their names be included in the Record.
Vermont and the legal community and the Federal bench have lost a
great champion of justice.
As Chief Judge Livingston concluded in her statement, ``Peter Hall
lived a life of fidelity to principles, kindness to individuals, and
service to the human community. He will be greatly missed.'' This is a
There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in
the Record, as follows:
Statement Honoring Judge Peter W. Hall, by His Former Law Clerks
On March 11, 2021, Vermont, the U.S. Court of Appeals for
the Second Circuit, and our nation lost one of our best.
Today, we honor Second Circuit Judge Peter W. Hall and write
in honor of his memory.
Since his appointment in 2004, Judge Hall served on three-
judge panels in over 750 cases and authored more than 150
opinions in published decisions. We consider ourselves
extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to assist him
in that great work and to benefit from his example,
mentorship, and friendship. To us, Judge Hall defines
integrity and public service. His commitment to protecting
and upholding the U.S. Constitution cannot be overstated.
Judge Hall was exactly what everyone should want in a
jurist. If your faith in the American legal system had waned,
Judge Hall could restore it. Litigants arguing before him
have told us that from the bench, Judge Hall was fair-minded,
engaged, perceptive, and honest. And that is exactly how he
was in chambers too. Far from the cynical suggestion that
federal judges are merely instruments of their appointing
presidents, Judge Hall embodied the judicial oath,
approaching every case individually and without any political
predisposition. All that mattered was achieving the just and
legally correct result in every case, no matter how high
profile (or low profile) the litigants or issue.
Judge Hall kept his home chambers in the United States Post
Office and Court House in downtown Rutland, Vermont. Judge
Hall affectionately referred to Rutland as ``the Center of
the Universe,'' and so it was for the years we were with him
there. Clerking for him was not only an education in the law,
but in life outside of the urban centers where many of us
went to law school. Who knew there were so many nuances to
the colors of fall foliage or that there was a ``mud season''
between winter and spring? Traveling down to New York City
with him to hear cases once a month was a study in contrast.
Judge Hall demonstrated how to flourish in both worlds; he
was as comfortable in downtown Rutland as he was in the
marble courtrooms of the Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse at
Foley Square. Judge Hall could seamlessly go from tending to
his horses on a Saturday to representing the Federal Judge's
Association at the International Association of Judges on a
Judge Hall possessed a rare and dedicated humility. You
will not find indulgent, flowery, or self-aggrandizing prose
in his opinions. Instead, you will find clear explanations of
what the law is and how it applied to the litigants before
him, written to be as understandable as possible to anyone
reading the opinion later. Of the more than 100 majority
opinions and countless summary orders Judge Hall authored in
his time on the Second Circuit, the Supreme Court of the
United States reversed only two (partially). We think that is
a pretty good record, but you would never have heard Judge
Hall tell you so.
We are particularly grateful to Judge Hall for his
willingness to look outside the traditional boxes for his law
clerks. We are a unique crew, at least as law clerks to
judges on the Circuit Courts of Appeals go. Many of us were
non-traditional law students. Others graduated from law
schools outside of the elite institutions whose students can
expect to go on to Second Circuit clerkships.
Others still took non-linear career paths to a clerkship,
working in the law before coming to chambers. Some of us were
Judge Hall cared deeply about giving Vermonters, particularly
Vermont Law School graduates, and those from non-traditional
paths and backgrounds opportunities to learn and excel. Our
lives have been forever changed by the gift of having clerked
in his chambers. We hope that Judge Hall's leadership in
elevating diverse voices and experiences will further cement
his legacy on the Court and in the law. We owe him more than
we could ever repay.
Judge Hall was a hero and a guiding light to many of us. He
was all a federal judge and a career public servant should
be. The United States is a more just nation because of his
decades of public service. We miss him dearly.
M. Michael Cole; Timothy C. Doherty, Jr.; Minor Myers; Nora
Von Stange; Thomas Brad Davey; Erik W. Weibust; Robin D.
Barovick; Samuel I. Portnoy; Timothy C. Perry; Stacey D.
Neumann; Rachel Hannaford; Russell Plato; Jill Pfenning;
Reagan Roth; Melissa Kelly; Sanja Zgonjanin; Peter Sax;
Elizabeth (Betsy) Grossman; Tom Valente; Nikhil Rao; Alison
Share; Nomi Barst/Berenson.
Christopher Worth; Matthew Grieco; Justin Brown; Peter Fox;
Katherine Padgett; Mark W. Vorkink; Shannon Wolf; Nathan P.
Murphy; Jonathan D. Lamberti; Molly E. Watson; Jonathan R.
Voegele; Megan E. Larkin; John H. Bernetich; Austin
Winniford; Aiysha S. Hussain; Mark Harrison Foster, Jr.;
Lydie Essama; Lucas C. Buzzard; Patrick A. Woods; Peter V.
Keays; Molly R. Gray; Michael A. Mcguane.
Mike L. DiGiulio; Caryn A. Devins; Stephen F. Coteus; Ryan
M. Royce; Peter I. Dysart; L. Raymond Sun; Matthew J. Greer;
Danielle C. Quinn; Alex Nelson; Caroline C. Cease; Spencer R.
Allen; Elise Milne Keys; Leslie Cahill; Jenna Scoville;
Brentley Smith; Fiona O'Carroll; Amelia Hritz; Kelly Lester;
Joseph Hartunian; Zachary Dayno; Atticus DeProspo; John
Howard; Jessica Bullock.
Mr. LEAHY. I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Minnesota.
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