James L. Oakes

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James Lowell Oakes (February 21, 1924 – October 13, 2007) was a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Born in Springfield, Illinois, Oakes attended Harvard College and Harvard Law School, from which he graduated cum laude in 1947. and served as editor of the law review. After graduating, he served two terms as law clerk for Second Circuit Judge Harrie B. Chase. He was in private practice of law in San Francisco, California from 1948 to 1949. Oakes then went into private practice as a lawyer in Brattleboro, Vermont from 1950 to 1966. He served as a member of the Vermont State Senate from 1961 to 1965, and as Attorney General of Vermont from 1967 to 1969.

In 1970, President Richard Nixon nominated Oakes to fill the seat on the United States District Court for the District of Vermont vacated by the death of Ernest W. Gibson, Jr.. A year later, in 1971, Nixon elevated Oakes to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. He was quickly confirmed, and served as a judge for 35 years, including as Chief Judge of the Second Circuit from 1988 to 1992. Oakes assumed senior status in 1992. He was succeeded by Fred I. Parker.

Judge Oakes served as a member of the Vermont Law School Board of Trustees from 1976 until 1994. His many incisive opinions helped to shape Vermont's singular role in the development of environmental law, including his ruling in Conservation Society of Southern Vermont v. Volpe (the Route 7 Case) and Southview Associates v. Bongartz (the Deeryard Case).

He married three times and had three children from his first marriage. His third marriage was to Mara Williams Oakes. Family and friends describe their marriage as "full of love" and "very sweet". Judge Oakes was happily married to Mara when he passed in 2007. He died on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts with Mara by his side.

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Legal offices
Preceded by
John P. Connarn
Attorney General of Vermont
1967–1969
Succeeded by
Jim Jeffords
Preceded by
Ernest W. Gibson, Jr.
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Vermont
1970–1971
Succeeded by
James Stuart Holden
Preceded by
Sterry R. Waterman
Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
1971-1992
Succeeded by
Fred I. Parker