Skip to main content

Robert Bruce Warden

When Gov. William Medill appointed Robert Bruce Warden, the Supreme Court’s reporter, as a Supreme Court of Ohio Justice, he was only 30 years old, making him the youngest Ohioan to hold a seat on the Court.

Warden was born in Bardstown, Ky. on Jan. 18, 1824 to Robert Bruce Augustine and Catherine Lewis Warden. By 1840, the Warden family moved to Cincinnati and while three of his brothers worked as steamboat engineers or clerks, Robert began, at age 17, to study law with local attorney Nathaniel C. Read, who later sat as a judge on the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas and as a Justice on the Supreme Court. He continued his legal education with Timothy Walker, also a common pleas judge, while working as a common pleas deputy clerk. Warden was admitted to the Ohio bar in April 1845 and he and Alexander Paddock maintained a law practice in Cincinnati’s Worthington Building.

From 1851 to 1853, Warden held a seat on the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas, before his appointment as reporter of the Supreme Court in 1854. After moving to Columbus following his appointment, Warden began attending sessions of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas and became engrossed in a murder trial where the victim was poisoned. Testimony at the trial convinced Warden to attend lectures on forensic medicine at the Starling Medical College in Columbus. Later, Warden lectured on the subject at the Medical College and published a book on the subject, A Familiar Forensic View of Man and Law (1860).

As reporter, Warden edited volume 2 of Ohio State Reports and began to edit volume 3 when Gov. Medill appointed him to a vacant Supreme Court seat on Dec. 9, 1854. Warden was replaced on Feb. 9, 1855. Warden authored 13 majority opinions for the December 1854 term of the Court that were published in volume 3 of Ohio State Reports. Among Warden’s opinions were those in the cases of Mortimer Faris v. The State of Ohio (1854) in which the Supreme Court affirmed the guilty verdict of the Morrow County Court of Common Pleas that violent resistance to an officer’s apparent lawful seizure of property is an unlawful act. The remedy to protest such seizure of property is through civil courts.

Warden returned to his duties as Supreme Court reporter and edited volume 4 of Ohio State Reports before entering into private practice in Columbus with Otto Dressel. Later, Warden formed a law partnership with Henry B. Wilson, also in Columbus. In 1857, Warden published his only work of fiction: “Arvoirlich: a Romantic Tragedy in Five Acts.” While in private practice in Columbus, Warden also wrote a campaign biography of Stephen A. Douglas called, “A Voter’s Version of the Life and Character of Stephen Arnold Douglas” (1860), as well as a legal text, A System of American Authorities (1870).

Warden moved to Washington, D.C. in 1873 to continue his legal and writing careers. His son, Charles, joined him to practice law. In 1877, President Rutherford B. Hayes appointed the elder Warden to the District of Columbia’s Board of Health. Warden delivered a lecture titled, “Our Sanitary Interests” in 1878, which was published later that year. Warden, who spent the remainder of his life in Washington, D.C., also wrote and published “An Account of the Private Life and Public Services of Salmon Portland Chase” (1874), “An Essay on the Law of Art” (1878), “Law for All” (1878), and “At and Near the Capital: Familiar Letters to a Young American from an American Who Is No Longer Young” (1886).

Warden married Catharine Eliza Kerdolff in Cincinnati on Oct. 15, 1843. The couple had five sons and four daughters and adopted a daughter of Warden’s sister. Warden died Dec. 3, 1888 in Washington, D.C. from the effects of liver disease.

Quick Details

b. Jan. 18, 1824

d. Dec. 3, 1888

34th Justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio

See All Justices

Word files may be viewed for free with Office Online.

PDF Files may be viewed, printed, and searched using the Free Acrobat® Reader. Acrobat Reader is a trademark of Adobe Inc.