Gravel & Shea Mourns the Passing of Partner, Jerome O’Neill

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It is with heavy hearts that the entire firm of Gravel & Shea joins with the O’Neill family, the Vermont legal community, and the greater Burlington area to mourn the loss of Jerome F. O’Neill, who passed away this Sunday, December 3.

“Jerry was a deeply committed American, a lion in the legal field, and the loveliest of family men,” says Heather Hammond, Co-Managing Partner. “We were lucky enough to call him one of our own at the end of a long and celebrated career, including time serving in the U.S. Army, followed by his commitment as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, U.S. Attorney for the District of Vermont, and then senior partner of O’Neill Kellner & Green. He always represented his clients with integrity and with compassion and was a mentor to many.” In private practice, O’Neill represented countless crime victims, particularly survivors of adult sexual abuse and child sexual abuse. He was a fierce and tenacious litigator, but always acted with the highest integrity and ethics.

In addition to his professional roles, he shared his expertise with others through long-time leadership volunteer commitments. O’Neill prioritized the connection and professional development of fellow attorneys through his work with the Vermont Association for Justice, the International Society of Barristers, National Crime Victim Bar Association, American Association for Justice, Vermont Supreme Court Evidence Rules Advisory Committee, Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services, U.S. District Court Advisory Committee, Vermont Bar Association, and American Bar Association. O’Neill also served for nearly two decades on the Burlington Police Commission. He frequently shared his expertise with media audiences to help them to understand complicated legal issues.

With more than 75 jury trials in his career, including many successful verdicts, O’Neill was considered a staunch and unapologetic advocate for survivors of sexual abuse. He was widely credited for pushing the legal system in Vermont and elsewhere towards a broader acknowledgment of the harm that was caused by abusers, and a recognition of the need to compensate the survivors of that harm. Widely recognized for excellence in annual legal publications, he also received the Frank Carrington Champion of Civil Justice Award from the National Crime Victim Bar Association in 2021, credited as “the father of the crime victims’ rights movement in the United States.”

“Many of us were fortunate to count Jerry as a true friend. He will be greatly missed and sets a tremendous example for a life well lived,” says Chip Mason, Co-Managing Partner.