Bud Roberts

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Bud J. Roberts, Jr.
Jag bio labyorteaux.jpg
Patrick Labyorteaux as then-Lieutenant Commander Bud Roberts Jr.
First appearance A New Life (JAG)
Last appearance Dark Secrets (NCIS)
Portrayed by Patrick Labyorteaux
Occupation Judge Advocate, USN
Family Bud "Big Bud" Roberts, Sr. (father)
Michael "Mikey" Roberts (brother)
Spouse(s) Harriet Sims[1]
Children 5
Rank Captain
Alma mater George Mason University School of Law

Captain Bud J. Roberts Jr., JAGC, USN is a fictional character in the JAG TV series played by Patrick Labyorteaux.

The character has also appeared three times on NCIS.

Character arc[edit]

Son of a retired Master Chief, Roberts joined the Navy, and as an Ensign was assigned to sea duty aboard the USS Seahawk as the Public Affairs officer under Captain Ross. It was during this role as the PAO aboard the Seahawk, that he first met LT Harmon Rabb, and his partner LTJG Caitlin Pike, when they arrived to investigate a murder. This got him interested in a career in law, and it was later LTJG Meg Austin who recommended him for transfer to JAG prior to her own transfer from JAG staff. He attended law school in the evenings at George Mason University School of Law and, upon scoring top grades in his finals, was assigned extra legal responsibilities and acted as a trial counsel for special courts-martial. Sarah MacKenzie and his wife Harriet Sims are the only people Roberts will allow to view his law school grades. He, his younger brother Mikey (Michael Bellisario) and sister Winifred (Winnie) had a somewhat strained relationship with their father, who raised them himself after the death of their mother, due to his physical and sometimes abusive methods of disciplining them. Bud's last meeting with LCDR Rabb prior to his transfer to JAG Headquarters was in the first-season episode "Skeleton Crew," when Rabb had been dispatched to investigate the murder of a former Academy classmate (and a love interest).

Roberts is well liked and well respected by everyone at JAG headquarters, and is often considered one of the better trial lawyers there. His success rate in the courtroom is often contributed to by his opponents' underestimation of him and his abilities. Harm had once said of him, "Watch out for his 'Aw, shucks, I have a lot to learn' routine", alluding to Roberts' ability to appear less intelligent than he actually was.

Though not the physical type, Bud has been known to become so when the situation demands it; he once caught a punch thrown by his father, and was able to subdue the larger man without difficulty. The incident where his jaw was broken when he stepped between two simultaneous punches from Rabb and the Australian officer Lt. Cmdr. Mic Brumby outside of an Australian courtroom had more to do with the physical limitations of the human body than lack of physical prowess. At the time of the taping, actor Patrick Labyorteaux had earlier suffered an accident that had broken his jaw, causing it to be wired shut and producers opted to write it into the storyline.

LTJG Roberts married Ensign Harriet Sims in 1998.[1] Together, they had five children:

  • A.J. Roberts (named in the honor of RADM A.J. Chegwidden, however not taking his proper first and middle names Albert Jethro.)
  • Sarah Roberts (named in the honor of LtCol Sarah MacKenzie). Unfortunately, the child died due to complications in childbirth.
  • James Kirk Roberts (named in the honor of Capt. James T. Kirk). Bud was a big Star Trek fan.
  • Unnamed twins (a boy and a girl) born towards the end of the series (the girl is called Nikki in episode "Straits of Malacca").

LT Roberts was assigned as Judge Advocate on the USS Seahawk during the beginning of the War on Terrorism in 2002. He lost a leg trying to save a boy from a field of landmines in Afghanistan that year.[2] He was transferred back to JAG HQ after his operation and proving that he was still able to meet the fitness requirements of the U.S. Navy.

After returning to JAG headquarters following the loss of his lower right leg from a landmine, Bud was assigned to working disability cases; he proved his worth to JAG when he investigated and successfully turned in a refusal of benefits when he noticed a sailor damaging his eyes with self-inflicted laser burns. Shortly thereafter, Bud returned to full limited duty in the court room.

Roberts was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Commander in 2004 in "Hail and Farewell" Part 1, which was the final act of command of the Judge Advocate General, Rear Admiral A.J. Chegwidden, at his dining out. Bud had already been passed over for promotion twice, meaning that if he were to be passed over a third time, he would have been involuntarily separated from the Navy. It should be noted that Admiral Chegwidden "went to the mat" with the Secretary of the Navy to get Bud his promotion.

In the series' final episode, LCDR Roberts chose to remain at JAG HQ after being offered billets by CAPT Rabb and LtCol MacKenzie.

On NCIS[edit]

Bud Roberts also appears in the first season of the JAG spin-off NCIS (which took place simultaneously with Season 9 of JAG), where Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs hopes Roberts will help "lawyer" him past a prohibition on the use of the DNA profiles stored by the Department of Defense.[3]

He then reappears after an absence of more than eleven years in the fourteenth season, having been promoted to Captain and still assigned to JAG Headquarters, where he meets up with Special Agent Timothy McGee and assisted the NCIS MCRT in the investigation of the homicide of a fellow JAG officer. McGee asks him about Harm and Mac, but Roberts is interrupted by the arrival of Special Agent Alexandra Quinn before he can reveal the results of the series' controversial final coin toss.[4]

The next year, while serving as Commanding Officer, Regional Legal Service Office Mid-Atlantic at Naval Station Norfolk, Bud assists Special Agent Gibbs in the death investigation of one of his JAG officers.[5]

Bud Roberts and A.J. Chegwidden (played by John M. Jackson) are thus far the only two characters from the regular JAG cast who have appeared in NCIS as the same character they played in the parent show. Chegwidden also recurs on the spinoff show NCIS: Los Angeles around the same time that Roberts reappeared on NCIS during its fifteenth season.

Dates of rank[edit]

Rank Date
US Navy O1 insignia.svg Ensign Original rank from the Pilot episode
US Navy O2 insignia.svg Lieutenant Junior Grade sometime between episode 1.22 Skeleton Crew (unaired) and episode 2.01 We the People (original air date January 3, 1997)
Lieutenant O3.png Lieutenant in episode 4.19 The Adversaries (original air date April 13, 1999)
Lieutenant Commander O4.png Lieutenant Commander in episode 9.23 Hail and Farewell (Part 1) (original air date May 21, 2004)
Commander O5.png Commander (off-camera - not in episodes)
Presumably five or six years after his previous promotion in relation to Time In Rank/Eligibility to be promoted.
Captain O6.png Captain  prior to his appearance in NCIS's fourteenth season. (original air date September 20, 2016)

Awards and decorations[edit]

The following are the medals and service awards fictionally worn by Bud Roberts, as seen in the NCIS episodes "Rogue" and "Dark Secrets". The names are given in order of precedence, according to SECNAVINST 1650.1F and the U.S. Navy Uniform Regulations (NAVPERS 1566.5G).

Width-44 crimson ribbon with two width-8 white stripes at distance 4 from the edges.
Gold star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Purple Heart Meritorious Service Medal Joint Service Commendation Medal
Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal
with one award star
Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal Joint Meritorious Unit Award
Navy Unit Commendation
with one service star
National Defense Service Medal
with one service star
Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal Humanitarian Service Medal Navy & Marine Corps Overseas Service Ribbon
with two award stars
  • Bud was awarded the Purple Heart after stepping on a landmine, and losing his right leg.
  • On JAG, Bud wore the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon (with a service star in later seasons); in NCIS, the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon has been replaced by the Navy & Marine Corps Overseas Service Ribbon (with two service stars).
  • As the Commanding Officer of a Regional Legal Service Office, Bud is eligible to wear the Command Ashore insignia.

Nuclear Football[edit]

In one episode, LT Roberts was selected to carry the nuclear football. He had trepidations about this duty, as he was worried that he would be responsible for the deaths of many innocent people. While he was on duty as the Military Aide to the White House, the President whose "nuclear football" he was guarding (George W. Bush) attended a conference. During this conference, Bud had to go to the bathroom. When he reemerges, the President is gone. Bud then runs the three miles to the White House with the 40 pound nuclear football. This closely resembles a real event, when President Bill Clinton once left a meeting in such haste that he left behind his military aide, who then ran to the White House.


  1. ^ a b "Wedding Bell Blues". JAG. Season 3. Episode 23. May 12, 1998. CBS. 
  2. ^ "Enemy Below". JAG. Season 7. Episode 24. May 21, 2002. 
  3. ^ "Hung Out to Dry". NCIS. Season 1. Episode 2. September 30, 2003. 
  4. ^ "Rogue". NCIS. Season 14. Episode 1. September 20, 2016. 
  5. ^ "Dark Secrets". NCIS. Season 15. Episode 12. January 9, 2018.