- Associated Press - Monday, October 13, 2014

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - Longtime Vermont judge Harold “Duke” Eaton Jr. has been chosen to serve on the state Supreme Court, Gov. Peter Shumlin said Monday.

The Windsor County native, who has served most recently in the family court for that county, would fill the seat left open by Justice Geoffrey Crawford’s appointment to the federal district court. The state Senate must approve his appointment, which is expected.

Eaton was appointed to Vermont’s trial courts by Gov. Jim Douglas in 2004, after a 21-year career in private legal practice, based in Woodstock. He had worked as a deputy state’s attorney in Chittenden County early in his career.

“Duke is a person of remarkable compassion with a deep understanding of our judiciary at all levels,” Shumlin said in a statement released by his office. “He comes from a proud family tradition of ensuring that our legal system serves the needs of all Vermonters. His deep sense of fairness and longstanding commitment to our courts make him an excellent addition to our Supreme Court.”

In the statement from Shumlin’s office, the 59-year-old Eaton called Vermont a “special place” and added, “I look forward to meeting the challenges that are ahead and am humbled by this opportunity to serve the people of my home.”

Eaton has one son and three stepchildren; his wife is a nurse at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. He said he enjoys a range of outdoor activities, including hiking and golf.

The Windsor native attended Woodstock Union High School, the University of Vermont, and Vermont Law School. Eaton would be the first state Supreme Court justice to have graduated from Vermont Law School. That private institution, which is not affiliated with the University of Vermont, was founded in 1973 and is located in South Royalton.

Eaton’s appointment drew praise from Michael Kainen, who has worked as a private lawyer in Windsor County and for the past 18 months as the county’s state’s attorney.

Kainen said Eaton will bring needed trial court experience to a five-member court that now includes two justices who had previously served as top aides to the governors who appointed them and one who had been in private practice in Rutland.

“I think it was really an outstanding pick on the part of the governor,” Kainen said. He called Eaton “very balanced, middle-of-the-road in terms of his judicial philosophy.”

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