Sargent, John Garibaldi

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps

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John Garibaldi Sargent served as attorney general of the United States under President CALVIN COOLIDGE. He was born October 13, 1860, in Ludlow, Vermont, to John Henmon and Ann Eliza Hanley Sargent. He was schooled locally and then entered Tufts College in Boston, receiving a bachelor's degree in 1887. Early in his college years, Sargent became active in the Zeta Psi Kappa Society; through the fraternity's activities he was introduced to many of Boston's oldest and most influential political families, including the Coolidges.

After college, Sargent returned to Ludlow, where he married Mary Lorraine Gordon in 1887. Sargent studied law with attorney, and future Vermont governor, William Wallace Stickney. Following Sargent's admission to the

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Vermont bar in 1890, he joined Stickney in the practice of law.

Sargent's first political appointment came in 1898 when he was named state's attorney for Windsor County, Vermont. He served until 1900 when he was appointed secretary of civil and military affairs for the state of Vermont by his law partner, who was then serving his first term as governor. After completing the two-year assignment, Sargent returned to the firm and resumed the practice of law. From 1902 to 1908, he argued the majority of his cases in federal court, and he established a national reputation as a trial lawyer.

In 1908 Sargent was named attorney general of Vermont. While in office, he was involved in one of the leading cases in the history of Vermont's highest court. In Sabre v. Rutland Railroad Co., 86 Vt. 347, 85 Aik. 693 (1912), attorneys for the railroad argued that the powers enjoyed by Vermont's Public Service Commission (which regulated railroads) violated the Vermont Constitution by commingling legislative, executive, and judicial functions. Sargent, arguing for Sabre and the state, disagreed. His position was that the SEPARATION OF POWERS was only violated when one branch exercised all of the powers of another branch. The court agreed with Sargent and recognized the QUASIJUDICIAL powers of executive-branch state agencies. The decision led the way for commissions and boards across the country to wield court-like powers.

While serving as Vermont's attorney general, Sargent also returned to school, receiving a master's degree from Tufts College in 1912. When Sargent returned to his law firm in 1913, he turned his attention to partisan politics. He supported...

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