Sterry R. Waterman

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Sterry R. Waterman
Senior Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
In office
November 13, 1970 – February 6, 1984
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
In office
July 13, 1955 – November 13, 1970
Appointed byDwight D. Eisenhower
Preceded byHarrie B. Chase
Succeeded byJames L. Oakes
Personal details
Sterry Robinson Waterman

(1901-06-12)June 12, 1901
Taunton, Massachusetts
DiedFebruary 6, 1984(1984-02-06) (aged 82)
St. Johnsbury, Vermont
Resting placeMount Pleasant Cemetery
St. Johnsbury, Vermont
Political partyRepublican
EducationDartmouth College (A.B.)
Harvard Law School
George Washington University Law School
Vermont Law School (J.D.)

Sterry Robinson Waterman (June 12, 1901 – February 6, 1984) was a Vermont lawyer and a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Early life[edit]

Waterman was born in Taunton, Massachusetts on June 12, 1901, the son of Zeno Sterry Waterman and Sarah (Robinson) Waterman.[1] He graduated from St. Johnsbury Academy and received his Artium Baccalaureus degree from Dartmouth College in 1922.[2] He attended Harvard Law School and then moved to Washington, D.C. to accept a position with the federal Commissioner of Immigration while continuing his studies at George Washington University Law School.[3][4] He read law and passed the bar exam in 1926 needing to complete one course before graduating.[5] He then ended his studies and began to practice, first in Washington, D.C. and later in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, from 1926 to 1955.[6]

Legal career[edit]

Active in Republican politics, he was State's Attorney for Caledonia County, Vermont from 1933 to 1937 and Assistant Secretary of the Vermont Senate from 1933 to 1940.[7] He served as general counsel of the Vermont Unemployment Compensation Commission for four years, a delegate to the 1936 Republican National Convention, a member of the commission to investigate the Vermont Court System from 1935 to 1937, and a member of the Vermont Uniform State Laws Commission from 1938 to 1958.[8][9][10]

In the 1930s and 1940s Waterman was a founder and leader of the Vermont Young Republicans, and was recognized as a leader of the progressive wing of Vermont's Republican party, which included George Aiken and Ernest W. Gibson Jr.[11] (Gibson and Waterman had attended law school together, and Gibson was Secretary of the Vermont Senate when Waterman was Assistant Secretary.)[11] Waterman managed Aiken's successful 1936 campaign for Governor,[11] and in 1946 was an unsuccessful candidate for the United States Senate, losing the Republican primary to Ralph E. Flanders,[12] who went on to win the general election.[13] As a member of the Uniform State Laws Commission, during the 1940s and early 1950s, Waterman was an author and promoter of the Uniform Commercial Code, which was adopted in 1952.[14] From 1957 to 1958, Waterman served as president of the Vermont Bar Association.[11] He was president of the American Judicature Society from 1962 to 1964.[11]

Federal judicial service[edit]

Waterman was nominated by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on May 13, 1955, to a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit vacated by Judge Harrie B. Chase. Vermont's Senators, Aiken and Flanders, had initially been willing to recommend Gibson, but Gibson preferred to remain on the United States District Court for the District of Vermont so that he would not have to leave Vermont. They then recommended Waterman, who was opposed by conservative Republicans, which caused Eisenhower to request that they submit another recommendation.[11] Aiken and Flanders persisted until Waterman was confirmed. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on July 11, 1955, and received his commission on July 13, 1955. He assumed senior status on November 13, 1970, and took inactive senior status in 1983. His service was terminated on February 6, 1984, due to his death in St. Johnsbury.[11][15]

Notable cases[edit]

Once confirmed, Waterman authored or assisted in authoring more than 600 judicial opinions.[15] Waterman's opinions included the one that upheld the prosecution and sentencing of Soviet spy Rudolf Abel.[15] He also wrote the opinion that reaffirmed the order for a special New York legislative election in 1965, which the state Court of Appeals had canceled.[15]

Other activities[edit]

Waterman was a longtime trustee of both St. Johnsbury Academy[16] and Vermont Law School,[11] and served as president of the board at each institution.[11][17]

Belated law degree[edit]

In 1977, Waterman received his Juris Doctor from Vermont Law School, which was conferred after the trustees, faculty and administration agreed that his writings while serving as a judge satisfied the requirements for the course he had not completed before passing the bar exam.[5][18]

Death and burial[edit]

Waterman died in St. Johnsbury on February 6, 1984,[15] and was buried at Mount Pleasant Cemetery in St. Johnsbury.[19]

Awards and honors[edit]

Waterman received several honorary degrees, including: Dartmouth College (LL.D., 1963); Harvard Law School (LL.D., 1969); George Washington University Law School (LL.D., 1969); University of Vermont (LL.D., 1972); and New York University School of Law (LL.D., 1979).[17] His personal and official papers are archived at the University of Vermont.[20] Vermont Law School maintains a scholarship[21] and lecture series[22] in Waterman's name, and the school's Waterman Hall is named for him.[23]


In 1932, Waterman married Frances Knight (1906–1975).[15] They were the parents of two sons, Robert and Thomas.[15]


  1. ^ Maze, Nancy Chadbourne (1984). The Paul Chadbourn Family of Waterborough, Maine, 1748-1990. Chadbourne Family Association. p. 159.
  2. ^ Vermont Legislative Directory and State Manual. Montpelier, VT: Vermont Secretary of State. 1981. p. 270.
  3. ^ "Sterry Waterman Nominated as Federal Judge". Bennington Banner. May 13, 1955. p. 1.
  4. ^ Second Circuit Historical and Commemorative Events Committee (2012). Special Supplement: Colleagues For Justice: One Hundred Years of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. New York, NY: St. John's Law Review. p. 957.
  5. ^ a b The Federal Reporter, Volume 751. Eagan, Minnesota: West Publishing. 1985. p. 104.
  6. ^ Waterman, Edgar Francis (1942). The Waterman Family, Volume 2. Hartford, CT: Connecticut Historical Society. p. 541.
  7. ^ Duffy, John J.; Hand, Samuel B.; Orth, Ralph H. (2003). The Vermont Encyclopedia. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England. p. 313. ISBN 978-1-58465-086-7.
  8. ^ Hein, W. S. (1944). Handbook of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws and Proceedings of the Annual Conference, Volume 54. Washington, DC: National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. pp. 11, 22.
  9. ^ Vermont Legislative Directory. Montpelier, VT: Vermont Secretary of State. 1977. p. 184.
  10. ^ Hart, George Luzerne (1936). Official Report of the Proceedings of the Twenty-first Republican National Convention. New York, NY: Tenny Press. pp. 27, 75.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i The Vermont Encyclopedia, p. 313.
  12. ^ Vermont State Archives (June 9, 2006). "Primary Election Results: 1946 Republican Party; U.S. Senator". Vermont Election Archive. Montpelier, VT: Vermont Secretary of State. p. 5.
  13. ^ "Biography, Ralph Edward Flanders". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Washington, DC: Historian of the United States Senate. Retrieved August 30, 2018.
  14. ^ Treaster, Joseph B. (February 9, 1984). "Sterry R. Waterman; U.S. Appeals Judge Served for 28 Years". The New York Times. New York, NY. p. 22.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g "Sterry R. Waterman; U.S. Appeals Judge Served for 28 Years", p. 22.
  16. ^ Vermont General Assembly (1983). Vermont Legislative Directory and State Manual (1983). Montpelier, VT: Vermont Secretary of State. p. 341.
  17. ^ a b Vermont Legislative Directory and State Manual (1983), p. 341.
  18. ^ "Vermont Law School Begins its 5th Year". Bennington Banner. September 12, 1977. p. 3. Retrieved 25 April 2015. The president of the board of trustees, Sterry R. Waterman, senior judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, was also awarded the juris doctor degree. Although he had studied at three law schools prior to his long legal career and has several honorary degrees, he had not previously received the law degree.
  19. ^ "Vermont Death Records, 1909-2008, Entry for Sterry R. Waterman". Lehi, UT: LLC. February 7, 1984. Retrieved August 30, 2018.
  20. ^ Biographical Directory of the Federal Judiciary. Lanham, MD: Bernan Press. 2001. p. 833. ISBN 978-0-89059-258-8.
  21. ^ "The Vermont Law School has established a scholarship fund for state residents in honor of Sterry R. Waterman". The Vermont Bar Journal & Law Digest. Vol. 10. Montpelier, VT: Vermont Bar Association. 1984. p. 32.
  22. ^ "Waterman Lecture: Tom Powers". South Royalton, VT: Vermont Law School. 2016. Retrieved August 31, 2018. Each year, Vermont Law School holds the Sterry R. Waterman Lecture. The series, named in honor of the late senior judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and a former president of the VLS Board of Trustees, highlights the legal issues of the day.
  23. ^ "Vermont Law School to Dedicate Waterman Hall in Public Ceremony". South Royalton, VT: Vermont Law School. May 9, 2006. Retrieved August 31, 2018.

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Harrie B. Chase
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
Succeeded by
James L. Oakes