Joseph Simon Lord III

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Joseph Simon Lord III (May 21, 1912 – April 23, 1991) was a United States federal judge.

Born in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Lord received an A.B. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1933, where he was captain of the boxing team his senior year. He received an LL.B. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1936.


Lord was in private practice in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from 1936 to 1961, interrupted by service in the United States Navy from 1942 to 1945. When he returned to Philadelphia after his military service, Lord became a partner in Richter, Lord & Levy. While in private practice, Lord defended several unpopular clients, ranging from Communists during the McCarthy era (who were acquitted on appeal), to Philadelphia's democratic boss William J. Green Jr.[1]

He became the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania for a brief period in 1961. On August 31, 1961, President John F. Kennedy nominated Lord to a newly created seat on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Lord was confirmed by the United States Senate on September 14, 1961, and received his commission on September 15, 1961. He served as chief judge from 1971 to 1982. He assumed senior status on July 1, 1982, and continued to serve until his death in 1991.[2]

Lord continued his reputation for courage and principled legal reasoning on the bench. In 1967, Judge Lord agreed with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and invalidated a clause in the 1831 will of philanthropist Stephen Girard, which had restricted scholarships at Girard College to "poor, white, fatherless boys". Judge Lord also infuriated Philadelphia mayor James Tate by interpreting the First Amendment to invalidate the city's refusal to allow anti-Vietnam War groups to use John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia for a rock concert. In 1971 Judge Lord overturned a recently passed state law that cut off loans or scholarships to students for "moral turpitude", viewing that legislative response to student protests illegal. The following year, Judge Lord struck down a national wiretap law as illegal.[3]

Lord was always known for his sense of humor as well as propriety. One of his favorite stories involved a golf game after the judge (a prominent liberal) issued a decision invalidating parochial school vouchers. When Lord asked John Cardinal Krol (well known for his conservative views) what his handicap was, Krol quipped back, "you are." In Randazzo v. Eagle-Picher Industries, Inc., 117 F.R.D. 557 (ED Pa 1987), Lord famously wrote, "Counsel brazenly, discourteously, defiantly, arrogantly, insultingly and under the circumstances rather obtusely threw back into my face the very allegations I had held insufficient by reiterating and incorporating those same crippled paragraphs. The so-called 'amended complaint' itself cheekily informs me that these paragraphs allege the states of incorporation or principal places of business of the defendant corporations. Of course, any law school student knows that both the state of incorporation and principal place of business must be diverse, but I suppose I can hardly expect any more from counsel whose familiarity with Title 28 U.S.C. § 1332 could be no more than a friendly wave from a distance visible only through a powerful telescope".


He died in Philadelphia, and his funeral was held at Old St. Joseph's Church.


Legal offices
Preceded by
new seat
Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
Succeeded by
Marvin Katz