Vermont Bar Journal, Vol. 40, No. 2 Vermont Bar Journal, Spring 2017, Volume 43, No. 1 - Page 37

Interview with Justice John A. Dooley, III Teri Corsones: Today is February 13 th , 2017, and I’m meeting with Vermont Su- preme Court Justice John Dooley in the Vermont Supreme Court Building in Mont- pelier. Justice Dooley, on behalf of Vermont Bar Journal readers everywhere, thank you for taking the time to meet with me today. JD: Entirely my pleasure. TC: Thank you. It’s my understanding that you’re now the 3 rd longest serving Ver- mont Supreme Court Justice in history? JD: Well, historians greater than I am, spent time looking at it and that’s what I’ve read. As far as I know, I have no reason to question that. TC: Did you imagine, on June 12, 1987, when you were first appointed to the bench, that you would serve for that length of time? JD: No, but when you take a job like this, it’s hard to imagine anything in particular, so I guess that it was a possibility. TC: Given your unique position in Ver- mont history, I’d love to get your perspec- tive on different matters affecting the bar. But first, can you tell us a little bit about your background; where you grew up, went to school and how you first became inter- ested in the law? JD: I grew up in Nashua, New Hampshire, and spent some of my growing-up time in Massachusetts. I then went to Union Col- lege; my major was in electrical engineer- ing. As I started confronting what I wanted to do when I grew up, I decided that be- ing an engineer wasn’t particularly what I wanted to be, so I decided I would go to law school. I went to Boston College Law School, right from my electrical engineering degree. I got a job as a law clerk to Federal Judge Bernard Leddy after law school, and I came to Vermont and never left. and I guess I filled that bill. TC: Do you recall any memorable cases during the time that you clerked with Judge Leddy? JD: I recall numerous cases during that time. You have to go back to that time to understand what the federal court was like then, because it was very different than it is now. At the time that I clerked in the fed- eral court, we had many more personal in- jury actions than for example, the Southern District of New York. TC: Judge Leddy was your connection to Vermont? JD: Yes, well I’m from New Hampshire, so I wasn’t far away. I had been here for sports and various kinds of activities in Ver- mont. Actually, it was a choice between be- ing a law clerk in the New Hampshire Su- preme Court and being a law clerk here, and I decided to come here . TC: Really? JD: We were known in the federal court as the plaintiff’s court, particularly because of Judge Gibson, who was the Chief Judge at that time. I saw a tremendous number of jury trials, with some of the very best jury trial lawyers in the state. I sat in some of Judge Gibson’s trials, from which I still tell stories, as you may have heard. I also saw some very interesting cases with Judge Leddy. TC: So your clerkship with Judge Led- dy must have been shortly after he was ap- pointed in 1966? JD: Yes, I graduated from law school in 1968 and he was a Boston College Law School graduate. He particularly wanted to hire clerks from Boston College Law School, TC: Did you ever imagine that Judge Leddy’s grandson, TJ, would become Ver- mont Attorney General some day? JD: No, but Judge Leddy had very tal- ented children in politics, so it’s not a com- plete surprise. I’m sure that he would be very proud of his grandson. www.vtbar.org THE VERMONT BAR JOURNAL • SPRING 2017 TC: What did you do after your clerk- ship? JD: I went to Vermont Legal Aid, where I was the Deputy Director. There had been a Bar Association Legal Aid Committee in Chittenden County, and when Vermont Le- gal Aid came along and got staffed, the Committee gave us its cases. I ended up in the first six months, I think, trying two jury trials in federal court, both presided over by Judge Leddy. So I was back in federal court very, very quickly. TC: That was just after Vermont Legal Aid began in 1968? JD: Yes, just after. Although jury trial work is not the normal work of Vermont Legal Aid, as you probably know. It hap- pened that there were two cases involving indigent defendants with cases in federal court for various reasons. That was pretty much my career as a jury trial lawyer, and I didn’t really try a lot since. I tried a lot of court cases, and many appeals in the Ver- mont Supreme Court. TC: You then went from Deputy Director to Director of Vermont Legal Aid? JD: That’s right, after a couple of years. TC: How long were you at Vermont Le- gal Aid? JD: About eight years, maybe six as Di- 37