Stephanos Bibas

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Stephanos Bibas
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
Assumed office
November 20, 2017
Appointed byDonald Trump
Preceded byMidge Rendell
Personal details
Born1969 (age 50–51)[1]
Queens, New York, U.S.
Spouse(s)Juliana Denise Bibas
EducationColumbia University (BA)
Oxford University (BA, MA)
Yale Law School (JD)
Academic work
DisciplineCriminal procedure
InstitutionsUniversity of Pennsylvania Law School

Stephanos Bibas (born 1969)[1] is a United States Circuit Judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, who previously was a professor of law and criminology and director of the Supreme Court clinic at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. He is a noted scholar of criminal procedure with expertise in criminal charging, plea bargaining, and sentencing.[2][3] As a professor, Bibas examined how procedural rules written for jury trials have unintended consequences when cases involving jury trials are the exception, rather than the rule, with 95 percent of defendants pleading guilty. Bibas also studied the role of substantive goals such as remorse and apology in criminal procedure.

Early life and education[edit]

Bibas was born in New York City and spent his summers growing up working for his father, a Greek immigrant who survived the occupation of Greece during World War II, in his family's restaurants. In high school, he became involved in debate and public speaking. He graduated high school at the age of 15 and entered Columbia University.[4]

At Columbia, Bibas continued to develop his debate skills through the Philolexian Society and Parliamentary debate. He graduated from Columbia when he was 19 with a Bachelor of Arts (1989) in political theory, summa cum laude.[5] He then went on to attend Oxford University, graduating two years later with a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts (1991) in jurisprudence. While at Oxford, Bibas won the 1st place speaker award in the World Debate Championships.

Bibas then attended Yale Law School, where he obtained his Juris Doctor (1994) and was a member of the Yale Law Journal.[6] At Yale Law, Bibas joined the moot court team and won awards for the best oralist and best team, and also served as a symposium editor on the Yale Law Journal.[7]

Professional career[edit]

From 2006 to 2017, Bibas was a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. He received the Robert A. Gorman Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2008. Bibas previously taught at the University of Chicago Law School and the University of Iowa College of Law and was a research fellow at Yale Law School.[8]

Before beginning his academic career, Bibas was an Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, where he successfully prosecuted the world's leading expert in Tiffany stained glass for hiring a grave robber to steal Tiffany windows from cemeteries.[9] Bibas also unsuccessfully prosecuted an alleged $7 theft at the VA hospital in New York.[10]

Early in his career, Bibas worked as a litigation associate at Covington & Burling in Washington, D.C.[8]

From 1994–1995, Bibas clerked for Judge Patrick Higginbotham of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. He also clerked for Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Anthony Kennedy from 1997–1998, where he was a co-clerk with Raymond Kethledge.

Bibas is the 15th-most-cited law professor by the U.S. Supreme Court, U.S. courts of appeals, and state high courts[11] as well as the 5th-most-cited professor of criminal law and procedure by law professors.[12]

Supreme Court clinic[edit]

Bibas also directed Penn Law's Supreme Court clinic, for which he litigated a wide range of appellate cases under consideration by the United States Supreme Court. The clinic allows students to assist on real Supreme Court cases, including recruiting, strategising, researching, writing briefs, participating in moot court rehearsals, and attending oral arguments at the Court itself. The Court appointed him to brief and argue Tapia v. United States as amicus curiae.[13] The Court praised Bibas and the clinic for doing "an exceptionally good job"[14] on that case.

Cases argued

Federal judicial service[edit]

On June 19, 2017, President Trump nominated Bibas to serve as a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, to fill the seat vacated by Judge Midge Rendell, who took senior status on July 1, 2015.[15] On October 4, 2017, a hearing on his nomination was held before the Senate Judiciary Committee.[16] On October 26, 2017, his nomination was reported out of committee by an 11–9 roll call vote.[17] On November 2, 2017, his nomination was confirmed by the United States Senate by a vote of 53–43.[18] He received his judicial commission on November 20, 2017.

Since joining the Third Circuit, Bibas's writing style has earned him a reputation as "one of the best writers on the federal bench."[19] His style is "instantly recognizable"; its use of short, punchy sentences and colorful examples aims for "radical clarity."[20]

As covered in the Wall Street Journal, Bibas has stated: "My boss is not my chief judge. My boss is not my appointing president. My boss is the Constitution and the laws."[21]

Several commentators, including the Cato Institute's Ilya Shapiro, have suggested Bibas as a possible future nominee to the Supreme Court of the United States.[22]

Notable opinions[edit]

Bibas has authored dozens of opinions on a wide range of subjects, including the following selected appeals:

  • Vorchheimer v. The Philadelphian Owners Association, 903 F.3d 100 (3d Cir. 2018). Writing for the court, Bibas articulated a textual standard for "necessity" under the Fair Housing Amendments Act. He looked to the ordinary use of the term, citing dictionaries, popular books, and even the Rolling Stones, to determine the term's scope.[23]
  • Jacobs v. Federal Housing Finance Agency, 908 F.3d 884 (3d Cir. 2018). Writing for the court, Bibas upheld, on statutory grounds, the creation of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), a government conservator that took over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and helped rescue the nation's economy after the housing crisis of 2008, as well as the FHFA's ability to retain Fannie and Freddie's future net profits in exchange for taking on their crisis-era liabilities.[24]
  • Cranbury Brick Yard v. United States, 943 F.3d 701 (3d Cir. 2019). Writing for the court, Bibas held that a company that bought an abandoned weapons-manufacturing facility could not sue the United States Military for the cost of cleaning up pollution at the facility. Bibas explained the private causes of action under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) through a "comical" example about a chemical factory in Gotham City that had been polluted by LexCorp and Wayne Enterprises. [25]
  • E.O.H.C. v. Secretary U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 950 F.3d 177 (3d Cir. 2020). Writing for the court, Bibas held that district courts have jurisdiction to hear a wide array of "now or never" challenges to the conditions of an immigrant detainee's confinement. Among them were the plaintiffs' challenges to (1) the Trump administration's Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) and (2) alleged violations of the Flores Settlement Agreement.[26]
  • McCafferty v. Newsweek Media Group, 955 F.3d 352 (3d Cir. 2020). Writing for the court, Bibas affirmed, on First Amendment grounds, the dismissal of a defamation complaint against Newsweek brought by a twelve-year-old, politically vocal supporter of Donald Trump. Bibas wrote: "Political discourse can be bruising. People often express opinions that offend others. But the First Amendment protects virtually all of those opinions, even offensive and hurtful ones, to promote a greater good: robust political discourse. The price of free speech is putting up with all sorts of name-calling and hurtful rhetoric."[27]
  • Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs v. Attorney General of New Jersey, 910 F.3d 106 (3d Cir. 2018) (Bibas, J., dissenting). Bibas dissented from a majority opinion that upheld New Jersey's ban on large capacity magazines for firearms. Bibas criticized the majority for failing to respect the right to bear arms guaranteed by the Second Amendment, writing that it is "an equal part of the Bill of Rights," which, like other enumerated constitutional rights, requires heightened judicial scrutiny.[28]

Personal life[edit]

Bibas has made several donations to Republicans.[29] He and his wife Juliana Denise Bibas, a writer, have four children.[30][31] He was a member of the Federalist Society from 1991 to 2017.[32] He has also served as a deacon of the Orthodox Church since 2015.[33]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Federal Judicial Center biography of Stephanos Bibas
  2. ^ "Penn Law Prof. Stephanos Bibas to be nominated to U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals". University of Pennsylvania Law School. June 7, 2017. Retrieved September 12, 2018.
  3. ^ Adler, Jonathan (June 13, 2017). "Professor Bibas writes letters (and lots of articles, too)". Washington Post. Retrieved September 12, 2018.
  4. ^ "Early Entry to College Demands Maturity". The New York Times. March 12, 1989. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 23, 2017.
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on January 22, 2010. Retrieved January 22, 2010.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ "United States Senate Judiciary Committee Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees" (PDF). United States Senate Judiciary Committee. 2017.
  7. ^ "CrimProf Blog: CrimProf Blog Professor Spotlight: Stephanos Bibas".
  8. ^ a b See CV, available at
  9. ^ Rohde, David (August 13, 1999). "Expert Guilty in Scheme to Steal Tiffany Glass From Tombs". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 23, 2017.
  10. ^ Weiser, Benjamin (October 6, 1999). "A Federal Case of Small Change; U.S. Prosecutes a Hospital Cashier Over $7 and Loses". The New York Times. Retrieved June 15, 2017.
  11. ^ Farris, Nick; Aggerbeck, Valerie; McNevin, Megan; Sisk, Gregory C. (August 18, 2016). "Judicial Impact of Law School Faculties". SSRN 2826048. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  12. ^ "Brian Leiter's Law School Reports". Retrieved May 23, 2017.
  13. ^ Liptak, Adam. "Court Chooses Guardians for Orphaned Arguments". The New York Times.
  14. ^ Kagan, Elena. "TAPIA v. UNITED STATES Transcript". Oyez.
  15. ^ "Eleven Nominations Sent to the Senate Today".
  16. ^ "Nominations - United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary".
  17. ^ "Results of Executive Business Meeting – October 26, 2017, Senate Judiciary Committee" (PDF).
  18. ^ "U.S. Senate: U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 115th Congress - 1st Session".
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  29. ^ "Prof. Stephanos Bibas – Nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit". October 2, 2017.
  30. ^ Stiegler, Matthew (October 3, 2017). "Even more on Bibas". CA3 Blog. Retrieved November 18, 2017.
  31. ^ Moran, Robert (November 2, 2017). "Senate confirms Penn professor for Third Circuit appeals court". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved November 18, 2017.
  32. ^ "Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved June 30, 2018.

Selected publications[edit]


External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Midge Rendell
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit