William Joseph Robertson (December 20, 1817 – May 27, 1898) was born in Culpeper County, Virginia in 1817. He attended the University of Virginia from 1834 to 1836 and again in 1841. After graduating, he was admitted to the bar in 1843, settled in Charlottesville to practice law, and won election as Commonwealth's Attorney for Albemarle County, Virginia in 1852. His Charlottesville home, the Judge William J. Robertson House, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.
Robertson prosecuted the trial of John S. Mosby, who was accused of shooting another student. Mosby claimed self-defense, but was convicted and sent to jail. Afterward, Robertson became a friend and mentor to Mosby, who kept a portrait of Robertson on the wall of his home.
Returning to private practice, he was attorney in many important cases involving the interests of Virginia and her citizens following the war. Most famous among these was his representation of the Lee family in the Arlington estate case. He also was known as an accomplished railroad lawyer, serving as general counsel for the Norfolk & Western and as a board member of the Chesapeake & Ohio railroads.
Judge Robertson was a charter member and the first president of the Virginia Bar Association, whose first annual meeting was held at White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia on August 24 and 25, 1889. In his presidential address, Robertson recommended the merger of law and equity in Virginia civil procedure,. His ideas "fell like a thunderbolt on some of his hearers," reported the editor of the Virginia Law Journal, who concluded, "I doubt they will recover their serenity in a year." The merger of law and equity in Virginia was accomplished, only partially, more than 100 years after his death.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
- "National Register of Historic Places, Registration Form, Judge William J. Robertson House" (PDF). Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Retrieved May 4, 2008.
- Ramage, John (1999). Gray Ghost: the life of Col. John Singleton Mosby. University Press of Kentucky (accessed via Google Books). ISBN 0-8131-2135-3.
- "Judge William Joseph Robertson," in 97 Va. v (1900).
- Warren, Charles (1922). The Supreme Court in United States History. Little, Brown (accessed via Google Books).
- Charter of the Virginia State Bar Association, Acts of Assembly 1889-1890, c. 376, published in Report of the Fifth Annual Meeting of the Virginia State Bar Association (1893) (available on Google Books)
- "VBA History and Heritage". The Virginia Bar Association. Archived from the original on May 15, 2008. Retrieved May 4, 2008.
- Van Rhee, C.H. (2004). The Law's Delay: Essays on Undue Delay in Civil Litigation. Intersentia nv (accessed via Google Books). ISBN 90-5095-388-3.
- Bryson, W. Hamilton, "The Merger of Common-Law and Equity Pleading in Virginia". University of Richmond Law Review, Vol. 41, pp. 77-82, 2006.
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