Peter W. Hall, judge and attorney, 'one of the good guys'

Honorable Peter W. Hall (1948-2021)

Peter Welles Hall of North Chittenden, Vermont, died on March 11, 2021, after a six-month battle with cancer. He was 72 years old. A judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit since 2004, Pete was one of the good guys – a cherished father, husband, brother, step-father, and grandfather, an exemplar public servant, a gentleman, a kind and dear friend to many, and a quintessential Vermonter.

Peter (Pete) was born in Hartford, Connecticut, on November 9, 1948, to Emilie Worthen Hall Paine and Thomas Wells Hall. Pete spent his early childhood in Salisbury, CT, and Montclair, NJ, due to his father’s work as an educator. Pete always considered the family’s farm in Shaftsbury, VT, his home, where they spent much of his early years, and moved to permanently when he was 11 years old. He prided himself on being a Vermonter, having deep-rooted ancestral ties to the state; his great-great grandfather, Peter Washburn, served as governor of Vermont in the 1850s. He was the oldest of five children, and remained very close with his sisters and brother throughout his life.

Pete graduated from the Hotchkiss School in 1966, and attended The Westminster School in London from 1966-67. He then earned his BA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as a Morehead Scholar, where he was president of the Interfraternity Council (IFC) and a brother of Chi Psi. He was honored as a member of the Golden Fleece, the Order of the Grail, and the Order of the Old Well. At UNC, he met his former wife Katherine Romans Hall and they were married in 1971. From 1971 to 1974, he was an Assistant Dean of Students at UNC Chapel Hill, and in 1975 completed a Masters in Student Services. Pete graduated cum laude from Cornell Law School in 1977, and was student president of Cornell’s Legal Aid Clinic in his third year.

After law school, he served as law clerk to Judge Albert Coffrin of the District of Vermont before becoming an Assistant U.S. Attorney, also for the District of Vermont, and soon became First Assistant U.S. Attorney. He and Kathy had three children during this time, Sam in 1979, Susan in 1982, and Elizabeth in 1985. In 1986, Pete left government service to form Reiber, Kenlan, Schwiebert, Hall and Facey P.C. in Rutland.

With his children, friends, and family, he shared his love for the outdoors, canoeing, fishing, pets, gardening and growing food, raising pigs and turkeys, grilling, cooking, and a love and care for all things living, especially our fellow humans. He taught his children carpentry, home and car maintenance, and how to stack firewood (a particular art). He instilled in them a strong work ethic, a duty to serve one’s community, and to approach life with principle, purpose, and a sense of humor.

Over the years, Pete was active at Trinity Episcopal Church in Rutland, was chair of the Board of the of Rutland Regional Medical Center, served as selectman for the Town of Chittenden, volunteered as a Guardian Ad Litem, and was active on the Rutland County Bar Association and Vermont Bar Association, serving as president of the VBA from 1995-1996.

In 2001, he returned to public service as the U.S. Attorney for the District of Vermont. Following three successful years, he was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit by President George W. Bush. He became Vermont’s only federal appellate Judge in July 2004. In 2009, Pete and his partner of many years, Maria Dunton, were married in New York City, a second home which he and Maria loved to explore.

Pete served as a delegate of the U.S. Federal Judges Association to the International Association of Judges. As an IAJ-UIM delegate, he traveled the world, working with foreign judiciaries on matters of administration, independence, continuing education, and governmental relations. He took great pride in representing the U.S. in this role and made many friends the world over.

He also served on the Board of Directors for the Vermont Law School and was a guest lecturer there. Dedicated to furthering the next generation of lawyers, Pete loved to mentor his law clerks and interns, as well as many other up-and-coming attorneys. The 60+ law clerks who worked with him on the Court of Appeals now serve in prominent roles in private practice and public service, a particular source of pride for him.

Family Information

Pete is survived by his wife, Maria Dunton; three children and their partners: Samuel Hall and Phoebe Brosnan of Chittenden, Susan and Jonathan Firth of Montclair, NJ, and Elizabeth Hall and Nathaniel Cresswell of Portland, ME; three grandchildren: Simon and Otis Firth and Warren Cresswell; two step-children and their partners: Clyde Dunton-Gallagher and Nancy Arguelles of Miami, FL, and Anna Dunton-Gallagher and Jake Brown of Rutland; three step-grandchildren: Mae and Madeline Rose Dunton-Gallagher and Caleb Brown; four siblings and their partners: Mary Hall, Susan Hall, Margaret Hall and Thomas Pell, and Thomas Hall; two step-siblings: Rebecca Jensen and David Paine; and dozens of loving cousins, nieces, nephews, and life-long friends. He was a true and generous friend to many, and will be loved and missed.