Robert Wodrow Archbald

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Robert W. Archbald

Robert Wodrow Archbald (10 September 1848 – 19 August 1926) was a United States federal court judge from Pennsylvania. He was the ninth federal official on whom Articles of Impeachment were served, and only the third to be convicted and removed from office.

Born in Carbondale, Pennsylvania of James Archbald and Sarah Augusta Frothingham Archbald (born 1805), Archbald attended Yale University, graduating with an A.B. in 1871. He read law in 1873, and was admitted to the bar, entering private practice until 1884. That year, Archbald was appointed as a Judge on the Lackawanna County (45th Judicial District) Court of Common Pleas. He was made President Judge of Court of Common Pleas in 1888.

Federal judge[edit]

On March 29, 1901, Archbald received a recess appointment from President William McKinley to the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, to a new seat created by 31 Stat. 880. He was formally nominated on December 5, 1901, and confirmed by the United States Senate, and received his commission, on December 17, 1901.

On December 12, 1910, he was nominated by President William Howard Taft to the United States Commerce Court, created by 36 Stat. 539. He was confirmed by the Senate on January 31, 1911, and received his commission the same day. In addition to his duties on the Commerce Court, Archbald was also assigned to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit by Chief Justice Edward Douglass White upon his commission to help reduce workload.


After an investigation by Wrisley Brown, Archbald was impeached by the United States House of Representatives on 13 Articles by a vote of 223 to 1 on July 13, 1912. Articles I, II, III and VI alleged that Archbald had entered into agreements with litigants at a substantial benefit to himself. Article IV alleged a wrongful communication with litigants. Articles V, VII, VIII, IX and X alleged that he had improperly solicited and accepted gifts from litigants. Article XI alleged he had improperly solicited and accepted gifts from attorneys. Article XII alleged he allowed corrupt practices during jury selection. Article XIII alleged a general charge of bringing the Judiciary into disrepute. The offences alleged in Articles I through XI were connected with holidays in Europe and other gifts received from coal mine workers and railroad officials.

On 16 July, the Senate began Archbald's trial. The Senate convicted him of five of the 13 articles on 13 January 1913. The Senate then voted to disqualify him from further office by a vote of 39 to 35.

The exact division on each Article is as follows:

Yeas Nays
Article I 68 5
Article II 46 25
Article III 60 11
Article IV 52 20
Yeas Nays
Article V 66 6
Article VI 24 45
Article VII 29 36
Article VIII 22 42
Yeas Nays
Article IX 23 39
Article X 1 65
Article XI 11 51
Article XII 19 46
Yeas Nays
Article XIII 42 20

Archbald was convicted on Articles I, III, IV, V and XIII and was accordingly removed from office. (Article II gained a majority of votes, but not the two-thirds necessary under the U.S. Constitution to convict).

Despite the outcome, Archbald continued to declare his innocence. "I have always known that I have done no wrong and the vote of no one makes it otherwise," he said before leaving for Scranton with his family. "Judge Archbald came as near being an ideal common pleas judge as one can hope to find," one judicial colleague said upon his death. Lawyers eulogized him as a "discriminating practitioner" whose influence "made a deeper impression than any other judge in the history" of Lackawanna County.[1]