John R. Dunne, 90, of Spencertown, NY passed away Sunday, November 1 at his home. Born January 28, 1930 in Baldwin, NY, he graduated from Georgetown University and Yale Law School. John was Senior Counsel at Whiteman, Osterman and Hanna LLP in Albany. Prior to joining the firm, he had a long and distinguished career in a variety of federal, state, and local government positions. A member of the New York State Senate from 1966 until 1989, he served as Deputy Majority Leader, Chair of the Judiciary Committee, Chair of the Insurance Committee, and Chair of the Joint Legislative Committee on Crime and Corrections. During his tenure he was an advocate for the merit selection of judges and court restructuring, and he sponsored legislation to amend the State Constitution to create an appointive system for Court of Appeals judges and establish the Commission on Judicial Conduct. From 1990 until 1993, he was Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights under President George H. W. Bush, where he was in charge of the enforcement of all federal civil rights laws. As a private citizen, John served as Chair of the New York State Capital Defender Office, Chair of the Task Force on the Future of Probation; a member of the Commission on the Future of Indigent Defense Services; a director of Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York; and a director of the State Office of Indigent Legal Services. John was instrumental in addressing prisoner reform issues, particularly after his involvement in the Attica prison riots in 1971. Following Attica, he helped found Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York. In a lifetime of public service he was known for always doing what was morally right, not politically expedient. Among many public achievements he was especially fulfilled by his work to defend the rights of prisoners.
John is survived by his wife of 62 years, Denise Maher Dunne, their four children Joanne Dunne Murphy (Thomas) of Old Chatham, Peter Dunne (Wendy) of Paget, Bermuda, Timothy Dunne of Spencertown and Hilary Dunne Ferrone (Christopher) of Spencertown, and nine grandchildren: Thomas, Jack and Eryl Murphy, Emily, Julia and Margaret Dunne, Aoife Dunne and Sam and Fiona Ferrone.
Funeral arrangements are with Wenk Funeral Home, Chatham, NY. Services will be private but the family looks forward to celebrating John’s life with all who knew and loved him when it is safe to do so. In lieu of flowers, gifts to honor his legacy may be made to The John R. Dunne Fund of the New York Bar Foundation (1 Elk Street, Albany, NY 12207) which provides funding for legal services to the families and children of indigent prisoners.