Harrie B. Chase

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Harrie Brigham Chase (August 9, 1889 – November 17, 1969) was an American lawyer and judge. He served briefly on the Supreme Court of Vermont, and then was a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit for forty years, twenty-six of them in active service.[1]


Chase was born in Whitingham, Vermont on August 9, 1889.[1] He attended Whitingham public schools, Wilmington High School, and Phillips Exeter Academy.[2] He attended Dartmouth College, receiving an A.B. in 1909, and the Boston University School of Law, receiving an LL.B. in 1912.[1][2] Admitted to the Vermont bar in 1912, he formed a partnership with his father in October of that year and continued to practice law until 1919[1][2] From February 1, 1919 to June 1919, he served as state's attorney of Windham County, Vermont.[1][2] Governor Percival W. Clement appointed him sixth superior judge on May 16, 1919, and at the time was one of the youngest people to become a judge in the state.[2] He served as a superior court judge until 1927, and was chief judge from 1926 to 1927.[1] He was an associate justice on the Supreme Court of Vermont from 1927 to 1929.[1]

In 1929, the United States Congress created a new judgeship on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals (45 Stat. 1081).[1] President Calvin Coolidge (a native Vermonter) decided to appoint a judge from Vermont to the court and selected the little-known Chase on January 19, 1929.[1][3] His appointment disappointed Learned Hand and his New York City circle, who had pressed Coolidge to elevate Thomas D. Thacher of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York instead.[3]

Chase was confirmed by the United States Senate on January 31, 1929, and received his commission the same day. He served as chief judge from 1953-1954. Chase did most of his work in Brattleboro, Vermont, where he lived, and commuted to New York only when necessary, which meant that he never became part of the core of the court.[3] Gerald Gunther, a Learned Hand biographer, described Chase as a modest man who "never claimed to be an intellectual or a penetrating student of the law... preferring his outings on the golf course to his struggles with arguments and judicial opinions," and yet had "integrity and competence" and was not a "political judge preoccupied with cronyism" as colleague Martin Thomas Manton was.[3] Chase was considered a conservative member of the Second Circuit bench and is remembered today primarily in connection with his colleagues, including Hand.[4]

Chase assumed senior status on September 1, 1954[1] and heard very few cases after the mid-1950s. He was succeeded by Sterry R. Waterman, also of Vermont.[5]

Chase died on November 17, 1969, at Vernon, Vermont.[1] He was buried at Morningside Cemetery in Brattleboro.[6]

Chase, a Republican, was a Universalist in religion.[2] He married Mina A. Gilman of Brattleboro in 1912, and they had three children.[2]

Among Chase's law clerks was James L. Oakes, who later himself became a Second Circuit judge.[7]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Harrie Brigham Chase at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Walter J. Bigelow, Vermont, Its Government, 1919-1920, Historical Publishing Company, 1919, p. 16.
  3. ^ a b c d Gerald Gunther, Learned Hand: The Man and the Judge, pp. 243-45.
  4. ^ Review of Learned Hand's Court (Martin Schick), ABA Journal, December 1971, p. 1226.
  5. ^ Sheldon Goldman, Picking Federal Judges: Lower Court Selection from Roosevelt Through Reagan, Yale University Press, 1999, p. 136.
  6. ^ Harrie B. Chase at Find a Grave
  7. ^ David M. Dorsen, Henry Friendly, Greatest Judge of His Era, Harvard University Press, 2012, p. 116.
Legal offices
Preceded by
new seat
Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
Succeeded by
Sterry R. Waterman