Robert Alexander Inch
Early life, education, and career
Born in Providence, Rhode Island, Inch obtained a bachelors degree from Princeton University in 1895 and then graduated from New York Law School in 1897. After graduation, Inch spent the next 27 years as a lawyer in private practice in New York City.
Federal judicial service
On April 28, 1923, In 1923, President Warren G. Harding named Inch as a recess appointee to a seat on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn vacated by Thomas Ives Chatfield. On December 15, 1923, following Harding's death, President Calvin Coolidge renominated Inch to a lifetime term on the court; he was confirmed by the Senate on January 8, 1924, and received his commission the same day. Inch served on the District Court for 37 years until his death in 1961, including service as Chief Judge of the Eastern District of New York from 1948 to 1958, and in senior status beginning on January 6, 1958.
As a federal district judge, Inch presided over a full array of civil and criminal matters, ranging from prosecutions under the Volstead Act during the Prohibition Era to receivership cases during the Great Depression and conspiracy charges against alleged organized crime leaders during the 1950s. From 1948 to 1951, Inch presided over the government's case against Martin James Monti for assisting Germany during World War II, denying Monti's plea to withdraw his guilty plea to charges of treason that initially resulted in a 25-year prison sentence.
Although Inch was reportedly a dedicated and hardworking judge, his decisions were not universally respected. In particular, Judge Learned Hand of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which reviewed Inch's rulings when they were appealed, was consistently critical, frequently referring to Inch in internal court memoranda by derisive names such as "the Inchworm" or "Judge Millimeter."
After Inch assumed senior status in 1958, his position as Chief Judge was filled by Mortimer W. Byers, and his seat as an active judge was filled by John R. Bartels. Inch continued to hear cases until 1959. He died two years later at the age of 87.
Off the bench, Inch was known as a lover of golf, a sport he played avidly for more than 50 years.
- Articles published in the New York Times during Inch's lifetime report that he attended New York Law School. These include the contemporaneous report "New York Law School: It Held Its Annual Commencement Exercises in the Lenox Lyceum Last Night", New York Times, June 11, 1897, p. 3, listing Inch as one of that year's graduates. The Federal Judicial Directory reports that Inch attended the New York University School of Law, but this appears to be an error.
- Gerald Gunther, Learned Hand: The Man and the Judge (New York:Alfred A. Knopf, 1994), pp. 302-03.
- Robert Alexander Inch at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.
- "Judge Inch at 80 Waits Party at 90; Federal Jurist Says He Still Plays Golf, But Confides Wife Can Beat Him", New York Times, April 3, 1953, p. 25.
- "Judge Inch at 82 Is Going Strong; Looks Forward to Building of New Courthouse for the Eastern District", New York Times, April 3, 1955, p. 55.
- "Inch to Give Up Chief Judgeship; But Jurist, 84, Notifies the President He Will Stay on U.S. Bench", New York Times, October 26, 1957, p. 23.
- "Robert A. Inch, Ex-U.S. Judge, Dies; Retired in 1958 as Chief of the Eastern District—Was Named to Bench in '24", New York Times, January 13, 1961, p. 25.