Justice Ernest W. Gibson III, a beloved member of the Vermont legal community, passed away on May 17, 2020, at age 92. He will be remembered as a distinguished jurist dedicated to Vermont.
Justice Gibson was born in Brattleboro in 1927. After graduating from Harvard Law School in 1956, he returned to Vermont, beginning a long and notable career in public service, following in the footsteps of his father, Ernest Gibson, Jr., who was Governor of the state, judge on the U.S. District Court, and U.S. Senator.
Justice Gibson served for four years as State’s Attorney for Windham County and two years as town representative for Brattleboro in the Vermont Legislature. Following his legislative service, Justice Gibson was appointed chair of the Vermont Public Service Board, where he served for nearly a decade. He was elected a superior court judge in 1972 and was appointed to the Vermont Supreme Court in 1983.
Justice Gibson was one of the first members of the Vermont Supreme Court to include the Vermont Constitution in his decisions, such as in State v. Piper, 143 Vt. 468 (1983). In 1987, he authored State v. Brunelle, 148 Vt. 347, in which the Vermont Supreme Court explicitly rejected the reasoning and decision of the United States Supreme Court, based on the United States Constitution, and held that the Vermont Constitution gave more protection to a criminal defendant. Justice Gibson served on the Vermont Supreme Court until retiring in 1997 at the then-mandatory retirement age of 70.