Peter W. Hall was appointed to the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit by President George W. Bush in 2004. During the nomination process, the ABA deployed Lorna Schofield (now a judge on the Southern District of New York) to vet Hall. When they met she declared, “I have been checking you out on the internet. You are the least interesting person I have ever had to investigate.” This biography makes only a modest attempt to alter that impression.
Hall’s great-great-grandfather, Peter Washburn, a lawyer, was the reporter of Vermont Supreme Court decisions. Washburn also served as adjutant general for Vermont during the Civil War, after which he was elected governor of the state. He died of pneumonia while in office. His portrait hangs in Hall’s chambers.
Although his ancestral Vermont roots run deep, Hall is technically not a native son of the state. When he was born, his parents were living part-time in Vermont on a 70-acre farm. His grandmother insisted that his mother give birth at the Hartford, Connecticut hospital where his grandfather was chief of staff. The Halls would go on to have four other children, only of one whom was lucky enough to be born in Vermont.
Hall’s father was an educator. His career took the family from the Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Connecticut, where he taught science; to Harvard, where he earned a master’s degree in education; and then to Montclair Academy in New Jersey, where he served as headmaster. When Hall was eleven years old, the family returned to Vermont full-time. Hall was put to work cutting pulpwood and haying for the cattle, and spent his free time hunting and fishing, cultivating a lifelong love of the outdoors. He left home for boarding school at Hotchkiss, followed by a year studying at the Westminister School in London on an English Speaking Union exchange.
After his stint abroad, Hall attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as a Morehead Scholar. He received an A.B. degree, with honors, in English in 1971. In a foreshadowing of his future career as a prosecutor, his honors paper addressed prisons in literature. After graduating a semester early, he taught English at a high school in Sanford, North Carolina. He then returned to the university, working as an assistant dean of students in charge of the fraternity system and liaison to the student government. He also studied for a master’s degree in student personnel administration, which he earned in 1975.
The call to public service took Hall to Cornell Law School. His first class was taught by Professor G. Robert Blakey, widely considered the “father” of RICO. Blakey fostered Hall’s lifelong interest in criminal justice and constitutional criminal procedure, selecting him as a research assistant to study gambling laws nationwide, among other matters. While in law school, Hall also served as student president of Cornell’s Legal Aid clinic. He graduated in 1977.
Hall then served as a law clerk to Judge Albert W. Coffrin of the District Court for the District of Vermont. After his clerkship, Hall joined the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Vermont and was posted to Rutland. The office had four attorneys (including the United States Attorney). After three years, the office had grown to eight attorneys, and Hall was promoted to first Assistant United States Attorney. Among his other notable cases, Hall helped investigate Raymond Luc Levasseur, the leader of a New England-based revolutionary group responsible for killing a New Jersey state trooper and robbing numerous banks.
After eight years as a prosecutor, Hall left the government to form a law firm that became Reiber, Kenlan, Schwiebert, Hall & Facey P.C., and eventually grew to have 14 attorneys—a large firm by Vermont standards. Hall’s private practice included commercial and tort litigation, attorney malpractice defense, representation of state prosecutors accused of ethical violations, and in the last three years a significant mediation practice. During this time, he was a member of the Board of Managers of the Vermont Bar Association, serving as its president from 1995 to 1996. In 1997, he was inducted into the American College of Trial Lawyers.
Just days after the September 11 attacks, Hall was confirmed by the Senate as the United States Attorney for the District of Vermont. During his three-year tenure in that post, he increased community outreach in the state’s efforts against heroin addiction and helped lead efforts to strengthen cargo container security through the Operation Safe Commerce program.
Hall has lived in Chittenden, Vermont since 1978. His wife, Rebecca (Maria) Dunton, is a veterinarian. Between them, they have one dog, one horse, five cats, and five human children: Sam, Clyde, Susan, Anna, and Elizabeth. In 2015, they welcomed their first grandchild, Simon Washburn Firth.