Thomas Hagan Roberts (1950-1951)

Thomas Hagan Roberts  (1950-1951)Judge Thomas Hagan Roberts was born in Providence, Rhode Island on January 4, 1902, the older of two sons born to Dennis J. Roberts and Mary (Hagan) Roberts. He studied at LaSalle Academy, received his Bachelor of Arts Degree from Fordham University in 1927 and his law degree in 1931 from Boston University School of Law.

His brother Dennis was Mayor of Providence from 1941 to 1951, and Governor of Rhode Island from 1951 to 1959.

Judge Roberts married Florence E. McCabe on July 29, 1939. They had two sons, Dennis J. Roberts II, who served three terms as Attorney General of Rhode Island from 1979 to 1985, and Thomas H. Roberts, Jr., a Professor of History at Rhode Island School of Design.

From 1949 to 1950, Judge Roberts served as Chief Counsel of the War Crimes Commission. During World War II, he was Chairman of the Bureau of Police and Fire and Director of Civil Defense in Rhode Island.

In 1950, President Harry S. Truman appointed him United States District Judge for the District of Puerto Rico to fill the position of Judge David Chavez, Jr., who had resigned. He was sworn in on October 10, 1950. While on the bench, Judge Roberts advocated for the appointment of an additional judge for this court because of its excessive case load. The response from the First Circuit Judicial Council and Congress was favorable. Congress did not act upon the petition, however, because the decision whether to revoke the provisions of the 1917 Organic Act that permitted Justices of the Puerto Rico Supreme Court to act as federal judges when needed was pending before it. While this discussion was ongoing, Judge Roberts submitted his resignation.

He returned to Rhode Island and was appointed Associate Justice of the Superior Court of Rhode Island in 1951. In 1955, he was appointed Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Rhode Island. He served on the Rhode Island Supreme Court until 1976, from 1966 to 1976 as Chief Justice.

Judge Roberts died on January 7, 1976. His request for the appointment of a second federal judge for Puerto Rico finally bore fruit in 1961, when a second judgeship was authorized, though the position was not filled until 1965, when Judge Hiram Cancio was appointed. In 1970, a third judgeship was authorized, and in 1978, four additional judgeships were authorized. The size and strength of this court is, therefore, largely due to Judge Roberts' foresight.