Charles H Robb

The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit didn’t always give unconditional obeisance to the U.S. Supreme Court when it believed an injustice would result. In a 1910 case it rebuffed a sanctity of contract defense by a railroad company which had been sued for negligence in the death of a locomotive fireman. The company argued that a provision in the Employers Liability Act of 1906 prohibiting the use of employment contracts as a defense against an employee’s suit for negligence was unconstitutional because it infringed upon the right to contract elevated to constitutional status by the Supreme Court in its noteworthy 1905 decision in Lochner v. New York. Rejecting that argument and writing for a unanimous panel, Justice Charles Robb stated, “After all, the right to contract is hedged about with many restrictions, and must always yield to the common good.”

(The ruling was not subsequently overturned. Justice Robb was the father of Roger Robb who joined the Circuit bench in 1969.)

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