Trimble, Robert (1776–1828)
TRIMBLE, ROBERT (1776–1828)
Robert Trimble, appointed to the Supreme Court by john quincy adams on April 11, 1826, was born in Virginia and raised in Kentucky. He studied law, began practice in Paris, Kentucky, and became one of the leading lawyers of the state with a specialty in land litigation. To the Supreme Court he brought an independence of character, a respect for legality, and considerable judicial experience. From 1807 to 1808 he served on the Kentucky Court of Appeals and from 1817 to 1826 on the federal district court. His years on the district bench corresponded to a period of political-economic upheaval during which Kentucky openly resisted federal admiralty jurisdiction and federal judicial interference with state relief measures. Both as district judge and as circuit partner with his friend Justice thomas todd, Trimble held the line for federal judicial authority and objective legality as he saw it—so firmly in fact that he was threatened with impeachment.
His integrity, ability, and nationalism won him an appointment to the Court on Todd's death. He served only twenty-seven months before his own death but long enough to have won the respect of john marshall and joseph story; Story eulogized him as belonging "to that school, of which Mr. Chief Justice Marshall (himself a host) is the acknowledged head and expositor." Trimble spoke for the Court only fifteen times; ironically his lone constitutional opinion in ogden v. saunders (1827) called forth Marshall's only dissent in a constitutional case. The question was whether a state bankruptcy law applying to contracts made after the passage of the law was a violation of the contract clause. Trimble's clear-headed, practical opinion upholding state power remained controlling for most of the nineteenth century despite the dissents of Marshall and Story.
R. Kent Newmyer
Story, Joseph 1829 Memoir of Judge Trimble. American Jurist and Law Magazine 1:149–157.