Middlebury, VT…How does a judge make a sentence fit the crime or settle a contested public issue?
On April 23, 2015, at 7 pm, Judge William K. Sessions III will speak on the topic Passing Judgment at the inaugural public lecture presented by Middlebury’s Hawthorne Club in conjunction with the Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History. He will offer his own thoughtful answers to those questions. His presentation will take place at The Champlain Valley Unitarian Universalist Society, 2 Duane Court (at the corner of Charles Avenue). Admission is free. Parking is available at the nearby Middlebury Union High School.
Judge Sessions will reflect on his 20 years on the federal bench, discussing the judicial processes he uses – balancing the merits of a case, the history of relevant laws, and the impact on public policy and community sentiments. During his judicial career, he has rendered judgment and covered such topics as climate change, campaign finance reform, equal pay for women, buffer zones at abortion clinics, application of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and national sentencing policy.
Judge Sessions was nominated to the United States District Court for the District of Vermont by President Bill Clinton in 1995 and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. From 2002-2010, he was the Court’s Chief Judge, and has held senior status there since 2013. He was also nominated by President Clinton and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 1999 to serve on the U.S. Sentencing Commission, which establishes sentencing policy for the federal courts. In 2009 he was nominated to serve as the Commission’s Chair by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
Judge Sessions has lived in Addison County for more than 40 years, serving as a law clerk, an Addison County Public Defender, and in private practice. He has also been an adjunct professor at Vermont Law School. In addition, as visitors to the Middlebury Farmers Market are aware, he is a frequent presence selling cheese from Blue Ledge Farm, which is owned by his daughter and son-in-law.
The Hawthorne Club was founded in 1877 to establish closer relations between members of the Middlebury College community and citizens of the town. It is named for Nathaniel Hawthorne, a national literary hero whose talks at the College made him a local celebrity as well. Historically, Hawthorne Club meetings have featured presentations by members on literary subjects and on relevant topics of interest to speakers and members. In more recent years outside speakers regularly have been invited to address the group.
In 2014, the Club decided to broaden its horizons by sharing at least one offering a year with the community-at-large in partnership with the Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History. Chartered in 1882, the Sheldon Museum, located at One Park Street, Middlebury, tells the history of the Mid-Lake Champlain region through its rich collections, archives, and innovative exhibitions. Langrock attorney Jim Swift is a member of the Board of the Sheldon Museum.
The two organizations chose Judge Sessions – a Middlebury College graduate, local resident, distinguished jurist, and community volunteer – as its inaugural lecturer. His life epitomizes the values and reflects the missions of each organization.