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Owen Josephus Roberts

Owen Josephus Roberts , (born May 2, 1875, Germantown, Pennsylvania, U.S.—died May 17, 1955, Chester Springs, Pennsylvania), associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States (1930–45).

Roberts was the son of hardware merchant Josephus R. Roberts and Emma Lafferty Roberts. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1895 from the University of Pennsylvania and then entered the university’s law school, where he served as associate editor of the American Law Register (now University of Pennsylvania Law Record) and graduated with highest honours in 1898. Upon his graduation, he continued his association with the University of Pennsylvania for the next two decades, teaching contracts and property law, and he also engaged in private legal practice.

Roberts served briefly as assistant district attorney (1903–06) for Philadelphia county before returning to private legal practice. In 1918 he was appointed special deputy U.S. attorney to prosecute violations of the Espionage Act of 1917. Excelling in this position, Roberts drew the attention of Pres. Calvin Coolidge, who in 1924 named him one of the two attorneys to prosecute parties named in the Teapot Dome scandal that tarnished the administration of Pres. Warren G. Harding. After a methodical investigation, former Interior Secretary Albert Bacon Fall was convicted of taking bribes in 1929. The following year, Pres. Herbert Hoover had the opportunity to fill a pair of Supreme Court vacancies caused by the unexpected deaths of Chief Justice William Howard Taft and Justice Edward T. Sanford. While Charles Evans Hughes won confirmation to the position of chief justice, Hoover’s appointment of John J. Parker met with stiff opposition and was rejected by the Senate 41–39. Hoover subsequently nominated Roberts, who won unanimous confirmation from the Senate on May 20, 1930.

By the time Roberts joined the Supreme Court, the conservative majority that had been dominant in the 1920s had diminished, and the institution was clearly divided along ideological lines. With four

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