The Cornell Law School community mourns the loss of Judge Peter Hall ’77, who died on March 11, 2021. Hall had served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit since 2004.
On March 24, Patrick Leahy, the president pro tem of the U.S. Senate and senior senator from Vermont, honored Hall on the floor of the Senate, referring to him as his dear friend and “a great champion of justice.”
Leahy also read a statement, which was entered into the Congressional Record, from Hall’s former law clerks, who expressed their gratitude for Hall’s mentorship and friendship, writing, “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.”
Interim Dean Jens Ohlin notes, “I had the chance to become acquainted with Judge Hall through his tireless service to his alma mater, and came to admire him greatly. It’s apparent from the correspondence my office has received that I was not alone in that sentiment.”
Hall began his career clerking for the Hon. Albert W. Coffrin in the U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont. Subsequently, he served as an assistant U.S. attorney and later as U.S. attorney for the district, with a stint in private practice in between. He also served as president of the Vermont Bar Association in the mid-1990s and was inducted into the American College of Trial Lawyers in 1997. Hall was appointed to the Second Circuit in 2003 by President George W. Bush, on the recommendation of Senator Leahy, and confirmed by the Senate in 2004.
Hall maintained close ties to the Law School throughout his career, hiring as clerks alumni Stacey Neumann ’05, Nomi Barst Berenson ’08, Amelia Hritz ’17, and Jenna Scoville ’18. Nicole Greenstein ’17 and James Brown ’18 were slated to clerk for him this year. He also hosted Marino D’Alessandro ’19 and Evelyn Hudson ’20 as summer interns.
Elizabeth K. Peck, assistant dean for Judicial Engagement and Professional Development, notes that last spring, Hall took on an additional summer intern at the last minute after a student had seen their summer job disappear due to the pandemic. “Through his generosity, a Cornell Law student had a wonderful summer full of professional development and mentorship. That may seem small thing to others, but for that one student, it meant the world,” says Peck. “Judge Peter Hall was a true and loyal alumnus who supported his alma mater in ways big and small.”
Hall regularly returned to the Law School to judge moot court competitions (he was joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor of the Supreme Court in 2018). In a 2016 visit, he and two other Second Circuit judges—fellow Law School alumnus Judge Richard C. Wesley and then-Chief Judge Robert A. Katzmann—heard a full docket of cases in the MacDonald Moot Courtroom, allowing students to observe the workings of the court first-hand.
In a statement released by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit following his death, Chief Judge Debra Ann Livingston said, “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.”