Roger Robb

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Roger Robb
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit
In office
May 6, 1969 – May 31, 1982
Nominated by Richard M. Nixon
Preceded by John A. Danaher
Succeeded by Antonin Scalia
Senior Judge
In office
May 31, 1982 – December 19, 1985 (his death)
Personal details
Born July 7, 1907
Bellows Falls, Vermont
Died December 19, 1985 (aged 78)
Washington, D.C
Nationality American
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Irene Rice Robb
Mary Ernst Cooper Robb
Lillian Nordstrom Robb
Relations Charles Henry Robb (father)
Children Charles C. Robb
Residence Washington, D.C.
Alma mater Yale University
Yale Law School
Occupation United States federal judge
Profession Attorney

Roger Robb (July 7, 1907 – December 19, 1985) was a United States federal appeals court judge and trial attorney, best known for his key role as special counsel to an Atomic Energy Commission hearing that led to revocation of J. Robert Oppenheimer's security clearance in 1954.

Early life and education[edit]

Robb was born in Bellows Falls, Vermont, the son of Court of Appeals Judge Charles Henry Robb, He received an A.B. from Yale University in 1928. He received an LL.B. from Yale Law School in 1931. He was an assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia from 1931 to 1938.


Robb was in private practice in Washington, DC from 1938 to 1969.

He was the court-appointed attorney for Earl Browder, a leader of the Communist Party, in a Contempt of Congress case in 1950, earning praise from Browder despite their political differences. He also successfully defended Otto Otepka, a former State Department official accused of giving unauthorized material to a Senate committee.[1]

Robb was probably best known as special counsel to the Atomic Energy Commission at an AEC hearing on the loyalty of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb. Over the course of four weeks the Robb and the AEC panel interrogated Oppenheimer and other witnesses on his past affiliations with Communists, with Robb using harsh prosecutorial tactics. The board voted 2-1 to strip Oppenheimer of his security clearance.

In 1968, Robb represented Barry Goldwater in his libel suit against Ralph Ginzburg and Fact Magazine, which had claimed that Goldwater was mentally unstable. The jury awarded Goldwater $1 in compensatory damages and $75,000 in punitive damages, which was upheld on appeal.

A year later, Robb was appointed a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. He was nominated by President Richard M. Nixon on April 23, 1969, to a seat vacated by John A. Danaher. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on May 5, 1969, and received his commission on May 6, 1969. He assumed senior status on May 31, 1982, and died on December 19, 1985. He was succeeded on the appellate court by Antonin Scalia.

Film portrayals[edit]

Robb was portrayed by Philip O'Brien in the 1980 BBC miniseries Oppenheimer, and by Michael Cumpsty in The Trials of J. Robert Oppenheimer, a 2009 episode of the PBS series The American Experience.

Personal life[edit]

Robb was married three times, to Mary Ernst Cooper, Lillian Nordstrom and Irene Rice, who survived him. He had a son, Charles C. Robb.[1]


  1. ^ a b "JUDGE ROGER ROBB OF U.S. APPEALS COURT DIES". The New York Times. December 21, 1985. Retrieved 5 July 2014. 


Legal offices
Preceded by
John A. Danaher
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
Succeeded by
Antonin Scalia