T. J. Donovan
T. J. Donovan
|26th Attorney General of Vermont|
|Assumed office |
January 5, 2017
|Preceded by||Bill Sorrell|
|State's Attorney of Chittenden County|
January 11, 2007 – January 3, 2017
|Succeeded by||Sarah George|
|Born||January 15, 1974|
Burlington, Vermont, U.S.
|Education||Merrimack College (BA)|
Suffolk University (JD)
Thomas J. Donovan Jr. (born January 15, 1974) is an American attorney and politician. He is Vermont's State Attorney General, elected in 2016 with over 66 percent of the vote. He previously served for ten years as State's Attorney of Chittenden County, the most populous county in Vermont.
Donovan is known for starting the Rapid Intervention Community Court (RICC) in Chittenden County. This is an award winning criminal justice program made available to non-violent offenders whose crimes have been driven by addiction or mental illness.
During his first month in office, Attorney General Donovan joined sixteen other states in an amicus brief in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The brief opposes President Trump's executive order banning on immigrants from certain Muslim countries. Donovan also joined Republican Governor Phil Scott in proposing legislation to require the governor's approval before state and local police could conduct federal immigration enforcement work.
A member of the Democratic Party, Donovan challenged incumbent Vermont attorney general William Sorrell for the Democratic nomination to become the Vermont Attorney General in the elections of 2012. His campaign that year was centered on the prescription drug abuse epidemic throughout Vermont. In 2014, he ran for re-election as state's attorney of Chittenden County, choosing not to challenge Sorrell a second time.
Early life and family
Donovan was born in Burlington, Vermont in 1974. He is one of six children born to attorney Thomas J. Donovan (deceased) and Johannah Leddy Donovan, a member of the Vermont House of Representatives. He is the grandson of Bernard Joseph Leddy (March 18, 1910 – January 9, 1972) a United States federal judge. Donovan graduated from Burlington High School in 1992 and attended Merrimack College, graduating with a degree in political science in 1996. He graduated from Suffolk Law School in 2000. Donovan is married to Jessica McCloud. The couple has two children.
During his 2012 campaign for Vermont Attorney General, Donovan acknowledged his arrest for assault as a teenager. In a plea bargain, the charge was reduced to a misdemeanor, and Donovan received a deferred sentence. His record was expunged after he completed the terms of his plea agreement. Donovan pointed to this experience as a critical moment in his personal development, when began to act more maturely and think about his future. He also detailed the advantages he had in dealing with the criminal justice system as the son of an attorney, which might not have been available to a similarly situated teenager living in poverty with fewer personal, professional, and political connections. He described this incident as instructive, stating that it guided him to a sense of empathy and obligation to help others navigate the criminal justice system and receive a second chance when circumstances warrant.
Donovan began his legal career in the District Attorney's Office of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as a criminal prosecutor. Donovan returned to Vermont in 2002, working as a Deputy State's Attorney in Chittenden County. He left to become an associate at the Burlington law firm of Jarvis & Kaplan, where he focused on criminal defense, civil litigation, and family matters. In 2006, after winning a three-way Democratic primary, Donovan was elected Chittenden County State's Attorney. The Chittenden County State's Attorney's Office is the busiest county prosecutor's office in the state of Vermont, handling over 5000 criminal cases and 300 Family Court cases annually. Donovan leads a staff of 28, including, attorneys, victim advocates, and administrative assistants. Donovan was re-elected in 2010 and 2014.
In 2010, Donovan started the Rapid Intervention Community Court ("RICC"), an award-winning criminal justice program made available to non-violent offenders whose crimes have been driven by addiction or mental illness. He is co-chair of former Vermont governor Peter Shumlin's Criminal Justice and Substance Abuse Cabinet.
In 2012, Donovan challenged incumbent Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell in the Democratic Party primary. Donovan campaigned, among other things, for access under the Access to Public Records Act to police investigations and the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana. One of his focuses in the campaign was to highlight the opioid epidemic afflicting Vermont communities. Donovan lost the hotly contested primary by 714 votes, with Sorrell receiving 21,124 votes to Donovan's 20,410. During the last weeks of the primary, a super PAC with unknown donors ran advertisements for the incumbent narrated by former Governor Howard Dean.
Several of the principal issues that Donovan advocated in the 2012 campaign were enacted into law in the next Legislative session, including access to records of police investigations, a Good Samaritan law to help prevent fatal opiate overdoses and decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana. In March 2014, Donovan was reelected as Chittenden County State's Attorney, running unopposed. While his office has prosecuted many violent felonies, he has also worked to reduce recidivism and, where appropriate, has utilized a collaborative approach to addressing criminality. In February 2015, Donovan announced a traffic-ticket amnesty program to allow persons with suspended licenses to pay each unpaid traffic ticket for $20 in a one-day trial. On March 20, 2015, more than a thousand people lined up outside the Edward Costello Courthouse in Burlington to recover their driver's licenses. A similar program was offered in other counties and in 2016, the legislature passed a law to allow such programs statewide.
On October 15, 2015, Donovan announced his candidacy for Vermont Attorney General in the 2016 election. He won the November 2016 general election by defeating Republican nominee Deborah Bucknam.
While Donovan has focused on prosecuting serious crime, and particularly violent crime, he has attempted an innovative approach to persons struggling with addiction and poverty who end up in the criminal justice system. Donovan has focused on ultimate outcomes not only for the victims of crime but for the perpetrators in order to reduce recidivism and rehabilitate offenders. Donovan often summarized his approach by stating he believes that "the best form of public safety is a good job."
In his October 2015 announcement for the Democratic Party nomination for Vermont Attorney General, Donovan called for the abolition of the use of private prisons in Vermont. He stated, "No more private prisons. End the contracts with the for-profit companies ... and bring the Vermonters home. This is a moral test of our generation in this state." As of the time, approximately 271 male incarcerated persons from Vermont were housed in a private prison in Baldwin, Michigan, operated by GEO, Inc. A month later, the Vermont Commissioner of Corrections Lisa Menard said that she wants to "substantially reduce, hopefully eliminate, usage of out-of-state beds. That keeps Vermont inmates and Vermont dollars in Vermont."
Donovan has worked to reduce recidivism on lesser crimes by trying to address the causes of criminality, prevention and collaborative solutions. For Vermonters struggling with drug addiction, he has sought alternatives to incarceration, noting that Vermont spends more on incarceration than on higher education, and that housing is a major problem. His efforts include advocating for medical treatment on demand for drug addiction, alternatives to incarceration and vigorous enforcement coupled with meaningful intervention and effective prevention strategies.
Donovan has also sought to enhance communication among law enforcement and the mental health community. He advocated for passage of "ban the box" legislation to prevent employers from inquiring about criminal history on initial job applications. After passing the legislature with overwhelming support, Vermont governor Peter Shumlin signed the bill into law on May 3, 2016.
|Chittenden County State's Attorney General Election, 2006|
|Republican||John St. Francis||21,439||34.7|
|Independent||Paul Charles Duprat||2,853||4.6|
|Chittenden County State's Attorney Democratic Primary Election, 2010|
|Chittenden County State's Attorney General Election, 2010|
|Republican||Paul Charles Duprat||6,086||11.2|
|Attorney General Democratic Primary Election, 2012|
|Chittenden County State's Attorney Democratic Primary, 2014|
|Chittenden County State's Attorney General Election, 2014|
|Attorney General Democratic Primary Election, 2016|
|Democratic||H. Brooke Paige||11,917||19.5%|
|Attorney General General Election Unofficial Results, 2016|
|Republican||Deborah "Deb" Bucknam||88,431||29.4%|
|Liberty Union||Rosemarie Jackowski||11,844||3.9%|
|Attorney General General Election Results, 2018|
|Liberty Union||Rosemarie Jackowski||9,536||3.43%|
- "TJ Donovan Facebook page". Retrieved August 2, 2016.
- "Vermont Election Results". Retrieved November 9, 2016.
- "17 Attorneys General File Amicus Brief in Support of Virginia's Lawsuit Against President Trump's Immigration Ban". VTDigger. 2017-02-09. Retrieved 2017-02-17.
- "Scott throws down challenge to immigration enforcement". VTDigger. 2017-02-09. Retrieved 2017-02-17.
- "T.J. Donovan won't run for attorney general". WPTZ. 2014-01-21. Retrieved 2016-05-26.
- "TJ Donovan Facebook page". Retrieved August 2, 2016.
- "TJ Donovan Official Campaign website". Retrieved August 2, 2016.
- Heintz, Paul (June 13, 2012). "T.J. Comes Clean: Vermont AG Candidate Had a Criminal Record of His Own". Seven Days. Shelburne, VT.
- "T.J. Comes Clean".
- Hewett, Elizabeth (October 2, 2016). "TJ Donovan: Looking to Spread Progressive Vision of Justice".
- Kenyon, Jim (December 3, 2016). "Jim Kenyon: For T.J. Donovan, Justice Reform Is Personal".
- Thurston, Jack (August 28, 2014). ""I'd Definitely Be Dead:" Recovering Heroin Addict Credits Diversion Program With Saving Life". necn.com.
- "Governor's Criminal Justice and Substance Abuse Cabinet". governor.vermont.gov. Retrieved August 1, 2016.
- Dobbs, Taylor (June 13, 2012). "As AG, Donovan says he would press for public disclosure of information about criminal investigations". vtdigger.org.
- Dobbs, Taylor (June 27, 2012). "Donovan proposes pot decriminalization as part of recidivism reduction plan". vtdigger.org.
- "Vermont Secretary of State, Historical Election Archive, 2012, Attorney General, Democratic Primaries". Retrieved August 1, 2016.
- Dobbs, Taylor (August 10, 2012). "Donovan insists that the Vermont Attorney General ask for removal of political action committee ad".
- "No. 70. An act relating to criminal investigation records and the Vermont Public Records Act, Act No. 70, § 1; 2013, No. 129 (2013 Adj. Sess.)" (PDF). http:// legislature.vermont.gov /. June 4, 2013.
- Poli, Dominic (May 11, 2012). "TJ Donovan hopes to unseat AG Sorrell". Brattleboro Reformer.
- "No. 71. An act relating to limited immunity from liability for reporting a drug or alcohol overdose, Act No. 71 (2013 Adj. Sess.)" (PDF). http:// legislature.vermont.gov /. June 5, 2013.
- Blaisdell, Eric (April 14, 2013). "Police, prosecutors criticize pot bill". Barre-Montpelier Times Argus. Retrieved August 11, 2016.
- "No. 76. An act relating to civil penalties for possession of marijuana, Act No. 76 (2013 Adj. Sess.)" (PDF). http:// legislature.vermont.gov /. June 6, 2013.
- "Vermont Secretary of State, Historical Election Archive, 2014, State's Attorney, Chittenden County, All Elections". Retrieved August 1, 2016.
- True, Morgan (February 24, 2015). "State to give DLS drivers a break March 20,".
- Dillon, John (March 20, 2015). "Driver's License Amnesty Program Draws More Than 1,000".
- Neubauer, Kelsey (May 31, 2016). "New license law corrects financial injustice, Governor says".
- Hallenbeck, Terri (October 15, 2015). "T.J. Donovan Kicks Off Bid for Attorney General". www.sevendaysvt.com.
- Keefe, Alex (November 9, 2016). "T.J. Donovan Will Be Vermont's First New Attorney General Since 1997". Vermont Public Radio. VPR.
- Dobbs, Taylor (October 15, 2015). "At Campaign Launch, TJ Donovan Calls For Criminal Justice Reform". digital.vpr.net.
- Burbank, April (November 16, 2015). "Shumlin defends private prison contracts". www.burlingtonfreepress.com.
- "North Lake Correctional Facility, 1805 West 32nd Street, Baldwin, MI". The Geo Group, Inc. Archived from the original on July 17, 2016. Retrieved August 1, 2016.
- Lobosco, Katie (October 1, 2015). "11 states spend more on prisons than on higher education". money.cnn.com.
- Donovan, TJ (May 1, 2016). "T.J. Donovan: Creating a more level playing field". vtdigger.org.
- "'Ban the Box' bill becomes law". May 3, 2016.
- "2006 State's Attorney General Election, Chittenden County". Vermont Secretary of State. Retrieved October 4, 2016.
- "2010 State's Attorney Democratic Primary, Chittenden County". Vermont Secretary of State.
- "2010 State's Attorney General Elections, Chittenden County". Vermont Secretary of State. Retrieved October 2, 2016.
- "2012 Attorney General, Democratic Primary". Vermont Secretary of State. Retrieved October 2, 2016.
- "2014 State's Attorney Democratic Primary, Chittenden County". Vermont Secretary of State. Retrieved October 2, 2016.
- "2014 State's Attorney General Election, Chittenden County". Vermont Secretary of State. Retrieved October 2, 2016.
- "2016 Attorney General, Democratic Primary results" (PDF). Vermont Secretary of State. Retrieved October 2, 2016.
- "2016 Attorney General, General Election results". Vermont Secretary of State. Retrieved November 16, 2016.
| Attorney General of Vermont