Joseph Buffington

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This article is about the Pennsylvania federal judge. For the Pennsylvania Congressman and state court judge, see Joseph Buffington (congressman).
Joseph Buffington (1901)

Joseph Buffington (September 5, 1855 – October 21, 1947) was a United States federal judge.

Born in Kittanning, Pennsylvania to Ephraim and Margaret Chambers (Orr) Buffington,[1] and nephew to a well-known Pennsylvania judge of the same name, Buffington received an A.B. from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut in 1875. He returned to Kittanning and read law in 1878, and then worked as a lawyer in private practice until 1892. On January 29, 1885, he married Mary Alice Simonton, of Emmitsburg, Maryland.[1]

On February 10, 1892, President Benjamin Harrison nominated Buffington as a judge of the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania in Pittsburgh, to a seat vacated by James H. Reed. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on February 23, 1892, and received commission the same day. He served on that court for nearly fifteen years. Then on September 25, 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt promoted Buffington to an appellate judgeship on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, filling a seat vacated by Marcus Wilson Acheson. The promotion was a recess appointment; Buffington was formally confirmed by the United States Senate on December 11, 1906, and received commission the same day. He was the most senior judge on the court for many years and presided over its sessions.

During the 1930s, Buffington became involved in a scandal involving his colleague on the Court of Appeals, Judge John Warren Davis. Buffington was found to have been signing opinions drafted by Davis, in cases in which Davis received bribes. Davis was forced out of office, but no formal action was taken against Buffington, who was described as being "aged, senile, and nearly blind" by that time. He took what is now called senior status, a form of semi-retirement, on June 1, 1938, and ceased hearing cases. He died in Pittsburgh on October 21, 1947.


  1. ^ a b George Thornton Fleming, History of Pittsburgh and Environs (1922), p. 860-61.