William Sorrell

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William Sorrell
25th Attorney General of Vermont
Assumed office
May 1, 1997
Governor Howard Dean
Jim Douglas
Peter Shumlin
Preceded by Jeffrey Amestoy
Personal details
Born (1947-03-09) March 9, 1947 (age 76)
Burlington, Vermont, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Alma mater University of Notre Dame (A.B.)
Cornell Law School (J.D.)

A native and resident of Burlington, Vermont, William H. Sorrell (born March 9, 1947) is the current and the longest-serving attorney general in the history of the U.S. state of Vermont. Originally appointed by Governor Howard Dean in 1997, he has been reelected nine times since then in 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, and 2014.


Sorrell received his AB, magna cum laude, in 1970 from the University of Notre Dame, then earned his Juris Doctor from Cornell Law School in 1974.

Early career

Sorrell was Chittenden County Deputy State’s Attorney in 1975–1977, then Chittenden County State’s Attorney from 1977 to 1978. After working in private law practice at McNeil, Murray & Sorrell from 1978 to 1989, he returned to being State's Attorney from 1989 to 1992, then served as Vermont’s Secretary of Administration from 1992 to 1997 until his appointment as Vermont Attorney General.

Attorney general

Tobacco litigation

Within weeks of taking office, Sorrell brought suit against the nation’s largest tobacco companies to end their deceitful behavior of lying about the harmful effects of their products.

The lawsuit resulted in a historic settlement with Big Tobacco that to date has yielded over $300 million for Vermont taxpayers; and, as a result of Bill’s leadership, Big Tobacco will continue to pay Vermont approximately $25 million a year in perpetuity.

Sorrell also successfully stopped Big Tobacco’s attempt to include cigarette advertising in national magazines sent to Vermont school children and scored a resounding victory against RJ Reynolds in a closely watched lawsuit attacking the marketing of the company’s so-called “reduced risk” cigarettes.

Environmental protection

During Sorrell’s tenure, Vermont has become a national leader in national anti-pollution efforts.

Sorrell joined litigation against American Electric Power, a major contributor to acid rain problems in Vermont and other states in the region. The settlement of the case is the largest settlement of an environmental pollution case in US history.

Sorrell successfully defended Vermont’s strict auto-emission standards (the so-called “California Standard”) against pushback from the national auto industry. The verdict was a success for the cause of reversing the adverse effects global warming and increasing the fuel economy of motor vehicles.

Other accomplishments

In June 2004, Sorrell began a one-year term as president of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), and in June 2003 he was chosen by his fellow attorneys general to receive NAAG’s Kelley-Wyman Award, given annually to the “Outstanding Attorney General."

Sorrell served a maximum term of six years as a member and then chair of the board of the American Legacy Foundation. In appreciation for his service, in 2008 the foundation endowed the William H. Sorrell Lecture Series, funding an annual address on tobacco control issues at a NAAG meeting.

He has served as a member of Vermont’s Judicial Nominating Board, as president of United Cerebral Palsy of Vermont, secretary of the Vermont Coalition of the Handicapped and a member of the board of the Winooski Valley Park District. He currently serves as chair of the board of the NAAG Mission Foundation.

Sorrell was recognized by the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Vermont as Tobacco Control Champion in 2003, in 2009 as Citizen of the Year by the Vermont Medical Society and in 2010 by the National Humane Society with its Humane Law Enforcement Award.

Vermont elections

Year Office Incumbent Party Votes Pct Challenger Party Votes Pct
1998 VT Attorney General Bill Sorrell Democratic 169239 83.8% E. Marc Costanzo Republican 9122 4.5%
2000 VT Attorney General Bill Sorrell Democratic 226668 83.9% Sandy Ward Republican 39713 14.7%
2002 VT Attorney General Bill Sorrell Democratic 125495 56.6% Larry Drown Republican 67360 30.4%
2004 VT Attorney General Bill Sorrell Democratic 169726 57.9% Dennis Carver Republican 90285 30.8%
2006 VT Attorney General Bill Sorrell Democratic 173467 69.3% Dennis Carver Republican 67721 27.0%
2008 VT Attorney General Bill Sorrell Democratic 214980 72.6% Karen Kerin Republican 55268 18.6%
2010 VT Attorney General Bill Sorrell Democratic 143,031 61.9% Aaron Michael Toscano Republican 67,900 29.4%

External links