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Judge Roy L. Stephenson Papers

Identifier: MsC0421

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Scope and Contents

Case number follows case name. Note: En Banc means "by the full court," "in the bench," or "full bench." When the members of an appellate court hear an argument, they are sitting en banc. Refers to court sessions with the entire membership of a court participating rather than the usual quorum. U. S. Courts of appeals usually sit in panels of three judges, but may expand to a larger number in certain cases. They are then said to be sitting en banc. The following information about screening panels and administrative panels is from the internal operating procedures of the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, available at the court's website (link found under External Documents) . Click on "Rules and Publications," then "Internal Operating Procedures." The file is available in .pdf and WordPefect formats. The material on Panels appears on pages 6 and 7. Boldface type does not appear in the original. Highlights have been used to emphasize the basic information about screening and administrative panels. (NOTE: This link is broken as of 7/25/2014.) D. PANELS OF THE COURT Panels of three judges decide most matters before the court. There are three types of panels: argument (hearing) panels, nonargument (screening) panels, and administrative panels. 1. Argument (Hearing) Panels Three-judge panels, referred to as hearing panels, hear argued appeals. The membersof these panels are assigned before court sessions. In addition to activecircuit judges, senior judges, district judges, and visiting judges also serveon the hearing panels. The active circuit judge from this circuit withthe most seniority presides on the hearing panel. The chief judge always presides. The clerk's office prepares and publishes an oral argument calendar approximately one month before the court session. The judges do not participate in the case-assignment process. The judges receive the briefs before the session. After reading the briefs, the panel, by unanimous agreement, may direct that a case on the argument calendar be decided on the briefs and the record. The composition of the argument panel changes each month and often during each court session, making rescheduling of cases within a given court session difficult. The clerk's office should be notified of potential conflicts before the briefing cycle is completed. Conflicts with trial settings in state and federal courts ordinarily are not recognized. The court of appeals normally sits only the second full week of each month from September through June. However, this practice is subject to change. Counsel should check with the clerk's office. Nonargument (Screening) Panels; All active judges regularly sit on nonargument panels, which are referred to as screening panels (the chief judge sits whenever necessary to fill the third panel). Senior judges occasionally serve on screening panels. At least three screening panels are in operation at all times. The composition of the panels changes periodically. The major function of the screening panels is to decide pro se cases and attorney-handled cases submitted without oral argument. A case originally screened for submission without argument will be placed on the argument calendar if one judge on the screening panel wants oral argument. The clerk's office notifies the parties if the case is reclassified for argument. Administrative Panels; Emergency Matters; Administrative panels decide presubmission motions and other preliminary issues the clerk is not authorized to handle. The administrative panels consider and decide: (1) motions for leave to appeal under 28 U.S.C.1292(b); (2) motions for leave to proceed in forma pauperis; (3) applications for certificates of appealability under 28 U.S.C. 2253; (4) motions for appointment of counsel; (5) motions for production of the transcript at government expense; (6) motions for bond pending appeal; (7) applications for stay pending appeal and applications for peremptory writs of mandamus and prohibition; (8) motions to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction; (9) procedural issues; and (10) emergency and special matters. The administrative panels consist of three judges. One judge or the clerk, however, may take certain actions. All stay and writ applications should be coordinated through the clerk's office in St. Louis. Emergencies are best handled by telephoning the clerk for instructions. Panels may be convened for emergency situations. At the court's initiative, conference telephone calls are used for the initial presentation of an emergency stay request or writ application. If necessary, application for temporary emergency relief may be made to a single circuit judge, but counsel should consult with the clerk's office whenever possible.


  • Creation: 1960-1979


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This collection is open for research. This collection is stored at an off site location. Please allow 2-3.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright status for collection materials may be unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owner. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility and potential liability based on copyright infringement for any use rests exclusively and solely with the user. Users must properly acknowledge University of Iowa Libraries Special Collections & Archives as the source of the material. For further information, visit

Biographical / Historical

Roy L. Stephenson was born in Spirit Lake, Iowa, on March 14, 1917. He graduated from Spencer High School in 1934, after which he earned a BA in 1938 and a Law degree in 1940, both from the University of Iowa. He won a bronze and a silver star in World War II. In 1944, he set up a law practice in Des Moines. In 1953, he was named U. S. attorney for the Southern District of Iowa by President Eisenhower. In 1960, he became a district judge for the Southern District of Iowa, and became Chief Judge in 1961. He was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in 1971 where he served until his death in 1982.

Stephenson tried the first daft card burning case in the United States. He sentenced the young man to ten days probation and ordered him to get another draft card. The youth complied. One of his most controversial cases was Tinker vs the Des Moines schools in 1966. In this case, three students in the Des Moines school system wore black arm bands as a sign of mourning for the dead in Viet Nam. They were suspended by the school. They sued the school district, and Judge Stephenson ruled on the side of the school. The Tinkers eventually took the case to the Supreme Court, which overturned Judge Stephenson's ruling.

Apparently distraught over the terminal illness of his wife, Stephenson took his own life on November 5, 1982.


130.00 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



U.S. Circuit Judge, Eighth Circuit and previously U.S. District Judge. Case files, correspondence, and subject files.

Method of Acquisition

This collection was donated to the University of Iowa Libraries by Roy L. Stephenson in 1976, 1979, and 1981.

Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Iowa Special Collections Repository

Special Collections Department
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242 IaU
319-335-5900 (Fax)