Roberts brothers serve different roles in the judiciary

January 28, 2003

People have mistaken Edwin H. Roberts Jr. for his brother, the judge, for years in Meridian.

People may still have to do a double-take, but the title "Judge" now fits both Larry Roberts and his older brother, Edwin. Edwin Roberts, 54, of Oxford, is the newly elected Chancery Judge of 18th Chancery District.

Circuit Judge Larry Roberts, 53, of Meridian administered the oath of office to his brother at the new Chancery Building in Oxford on Dec. 30. Their parents, Edwin H. Roberts Sr. and Velda L. Roberts, attended the investiture ceremony.

"It's not every day that as a judge you have the opportunity to swear in your brother as a fellow trial judge," said Larry Roberts, who is in his 25th year on the bench. "I was just humbled by the whole experience."

Edwin Roberts, the older by a year and three weeks, said, "We look alike and sound alike. We scare each other."

On visits to his boyhood home of Meridian, Edwin Roberts said he has sometimes gotten credit for his brother's work. "I used to go to Meridian and people would come up to me and say, 'Judge, thank you for sending me to Parchman,' " he said.

Larry Roberts has had similar experiences in Oxford, where his older brother has lived and practiced law since graduating from the University of Mississippi School of Law.

Circuit Judge Roberts is also an Ole Miss Law School graduate.

The veteran judge offered some advice to his older brother. "I told him if he would be true to the law and if he would treat the attorneys with respect and dignity and courtesy, as well as the litigants, if he would have integrity and honesty, he would do well as a judge."

"He's a workaholic anyway. I didn't need to stress to him his need to be diligent in his duties," Larry Roberts said.

Their jobs are different. As a circuit judge, Larry Roberts presides over the trials of criminal prosecutions and civil lawsuits. As a chancery judge, Edwin Roberts' docket includes divorces, custody disputes, adoptions, guardianships and other family matters as well as

wills and equity disputes, among others.

Outside the courtroom, their careers have run parallel courses.

Larry Roberts spent 20 years in the U.S. Army Reserve. He saw a year of active duty in Operation Desert Storm. He retired as a lieutenant colonel.

Edwin Roberts has spent 32 years in the Army National Guard. He holds the rank of brigadier general. His impending promotion to major general was announced recently. He is Deputy Commanding General for the Army National Guard, Training and Doctrine Command, which is in charge of planning the training and equipment needs of the Army and National Guard for the future. He may spend up to 139 days a year on military duty.

"It doesn't interfere with my judicial duties," Edwin Roberts said. "I get to pick and choose when I go."

Larry Roberts said, "He's a superior officer to me. But before he got on the bench, I would pick at him when he came into the courtroom. When he wore the uniform, I addressed him as 'sir' and when I wore the robe, he addressed me as 'sir.' Now I guess we are equal."