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William Irwin Schaffer (February 11, 1867 – January 15, 1953) was a Pennsylvania lawyer and judge. He served briefly as the state's Attorney General, resigning to serve on the state's Supreme Court for over twenty years, including three years as Chief Justice.

William Irwin Schaffer
William Irwin Schaffer, 1867-1953.jpg
c. 1919 photograph
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
In office
January 2, 1940 – January 4, 1943
Preceded byJohn W. Kephart
Succeeded byGeorge W. Maxey
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
In office
December 14, 1920 – January 2, 1940
Attorney General of Pennsylvania
In office
January 21, 1919 – December 14, 1920
GovernorWilliam Cameron Sproul
Preceded byFrancis Shunk Brown
Succeeded byGeorge E. Alter
Personal details
Born(1867-02-11)February 11, 1867
Germantown, Philadelphia
DiedJanuary 15, 1953(1953-01-15) (aged 85)
Belleair, Pinellas County, Florida
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Susan Ashley Cross
OccupationJudge, lawyer

Life and careerEdit

Schaffer was the son of George Alfred and Mary Henrietta Irwin Schaffer. His maternal grandfather, William H. Irwin, had served as Adjutant General of the state. Schaffer grew up in Chester, Pennsylvania. He left school at age fifteen, finding odd jobs, ending up as an assistant in a law office, where he learned law. He was admitted to the bar of Delaware County in 1888 on his 21st birthday, the legal minimum.[1][2]

He served two terms as District Attorney for Delaware County. He was active in Republican politics, and was appointed by Governor William Cameron Sproul, first as Attorney General, and then to fill a vacancy on the state Supreme Court. He then won election to a 21-year term on the Court. He was elevated to Chief Justice based on seniority in 1940.[3]

After retiring from the Court, he returned to private practice, living in Haverford. During his final illness, he stayed in Florida, where he died.[3]

Notable casesEdit

Schaffer wrote the majority opinion in the 1927 case deciding that Sunday baseball was in violation of the state's 1794 "blue laws".[4]


Schaffer was identified, along with Justice John W. Kephart, in a Senate Banking Committee investigation, as being on a J. P. Morgan "preferred" list, allowing them steeply discounted prices for the purchase of certain securities. Governor Pinchot asked the two justices to resign. The judges denied any impropriety.[5][6]


  1. ^ Wiley 1894, pp. 316–18.
  2. ^ Joyce 1919, pp. 589–91.
  3. ^ a b "Justice Schaffer of Pennsylvania". The New York Times. January 16, 1953. p. 23.
  4. ^ "Ban on Sunday Baseball is Upheld". The Pittsburgh Press. June 25, 1927. p. 1.
  5. ^ "Gov. Pinchot asks judges who took favors to resign". The Christian Science Monitor. May 29, 1933. p. 6.
  6. ^ Davies, Lawrence E. (June 4, 1933). "Democrats back Pinchot's attack". The New York Times. p. E1.

Further readingEdit

Legal offices
Preceded by
Francis Shunk Brown
Attorney General of Pennsylvania
Succeeded by
George E. Alter
Preceded by
John W. Kephart
Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court
Succeeded by
George W. Maxey