Albert W. Barney, Jr.

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Vermont Supreme Court Chief Justice Albert W. Barney
The Honorable Albert W. Barney Albert Barney.jpg
Judicial seat Elected to the Vermont Supreme Court in 1959
Predecessor James Stuart Holden
Successor Franklin S. Billings, Jr.
Born October 23, 1920, St. Johnsbury, Vermont
Died May 10, 2010, St. Johnsbury, Vermont
Other information Presided over Vermont's last death penalty case

Albert Wilkins Barney, Jr. (October 23, 1920 – May 10, 2010) was an American lawyer and judge. He became an associated justice of the Vermont Supreme Court in 1959. He became chief justice in 1974, and served until his retirement in 1982.[1]

As a superior court judge, Barney presided over Vermont's last death penalty case in 1953.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Barney was born in St. Johnsbury, Vermont to Albert Wilkins Barney Sr. and Marion Bisbee Barney.[3] He graduated from St. Johnsbury Academy in 1938[4] and received his undergraduate degree from Yale University.[2][4] During World War II, Barney served in the United States Navy. Barney owned a restaurant and received his law degree from the Harvard Law School.[4]

Judicial career[edit]

Lower courts[edit]

Barney was admitted to the bar in 1949. He served in the Vermont House of Representatives in 1951. Barney became a municipal court judge in 1951 and in 1952 was appointed a superior court judge.[5]

State Supreme Court[edit]

In 1959, Barney was elected to the Vermont Supreme Court and in 1974, became chief justice. He retired from the bench in 1982.[5]

Death penalty case[edit]

When Barney was a state court judge, he presided over the trial of Donald DeMag.[4] Convicted and given a death sentence, Demag was the last person to be executed in the electric chair before the state abolished the death penalty.[4][6]


Barney was active in the American Academy of Judicial Education.[7] He was Chair, Conference of Chief Justices from 1981 to 1982 and a member of National Center for State Courts in 1981.[7]


In 1979, the American Judges Association presented Barney its Award of Merit which was given to a judge for outstanding contributions to the judiciary.[8] This award is now called the Chief Justice Richard W. Holmes Award.[8]

In 1997, Barney received the Dwayne B. Sherrer Alumni Distinguished Service Award from St. Johnsbury Academy.[9]

Later life[edit]

In the 1980s, Barney served regularly as a retired justice.[7] Until 2006, he also continued to serve on the state supreme court.[7]

Personal life[edit]

Barney was married to his wife, Helen, for over 60 years.[2] They had three daughters.[2] Barney died at his home in St. Johnsbury on May 10, 2010.[4]

Selected quotes[edit]

In making any law work, it is necessary that it be accepted by the general public that this law is fair and necessary. ... The will of the people must be mixed into every decision of the court.

-Albert W. Barney, after being sworn in Chief Justice, 1974 [4]

It's not a job, It's such a responsibility.

-Albert W. Barney, after retiring as Chief Justice, 1982 [4]


Legal offices
Preceded by
James Stuart Holden
Chief Justice of the Vermont Supreme Court
Succeeded by
Franklin S. Billings, Jr.



  1. ^ "Former VT Supreme Court Justice Barney Dies". Vermont Public Radio. May 12, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d Associated Press (May 12, 2010). "Former Vermont Chief Justice Barney dies at 89". Retrieved 2010-05-15. 
  3. ^ "The Hon. Albert W. Barney Obituary". Caledonian-Record. May 12, 2010. Archived from the original on January 18, 2013. Retrieved 2010-05-13. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Associated Press (May 13, 2010). "Former Vermont Chief Justice Barney dies at 89". Burlington Free Press. Retrieved 2010-05-15. [dead link]
  5. ^ a b "The Caledonian-Record," May 13, 2010, obituary of Albert W. Barney
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b c d Elizabeth Finn (May 13, 2010). "Vermont Loses Pioneer of Unified Judiciary Chief Justice Albert W. Barney, Chief Justice VT 1974 - 1982" (PDF). Caledonian-Record. Archived (PDF) from the original on 13 June 2010. Retrieved 2010-05-18. 
  8. ^ a b "Awards". American Judges Association. 2010. Retrieved 2010-05-15. 
  9. ^ "Alumni Awards". St. Johnsbury Academy. 2009. Retrieved 2010-05-15.