Bench Memos

Law & the Courts

Who is Stephanos Bibas?

Stephanos Bibas

Nominee to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

Stephanos Bibas is President Trump’s nominee to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

Age:  50 (approximate)

Current Position:  Professor of Law, University of Pennsylvania Law School


  • B.A., Columbia University (1989), summa cum laude; Phi Beta Kappa (early election, top 2% of class)

  • B.A. and M.A., University College, Oxford University (1991); Gibbs Book Prize in contracts, torts, and land law; Alan Urbach Memorial Prize in jurisprudence; 1st Place Speaker, 1991 World Debate Championships

  • J.D., Yale Law School (1994); Symposium Editor, Yale Law Journal; Thurman Arnold Prize (Moot Court – Best Oralist); Stewart Prize (Moot Court – Best Team)

Judicial Clerkships: Judge Patrick Higginbotham, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (1994-1995); Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy of the U.S. Supreme Court (1997-1998)


  • 1995-1997:  Associate, Covington & Burling LLP (Washington, D.C.)

  • 1998-2000:  Assistant United States Attorney, U.S Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York (New York, NY)

  • 2000-2001:  Research Fellow, Yale Law School (New Haven, CT)

  • 2001-2006:  Associate Professor, University of Iowa College of Law (Iowa City, IA)

  • Fall 2005:  Visiting Professor, University of Pennsylvania Law School

  • Winter/Spring 2006:  Visiting Associate Professor, University of Chicago Law School

  • 2006-present:  Professor of Law, Professor of Criminology (secondary appointment), University of Pennsylvania Law School (Philadelphia, PA)

Notable matters

  • Professor Bibas has studied the powers and incentives that shape how prosecutors, defense counsel, defendants, and judges behave in the real world of guilty pleas.  His law review article, Plea Bargaining Outside the Shadow of Trial, 117 Harvard Law Review 2463 (2004), explored the agency costs, structural forces, and psychological biases that cause plea bargaining to deviate from expected trial outcomes.

  • Professor Bibas serves as Director of Penn’s Supreme Court Clinic and has litigated a wide range of Supreme Court cases in that capacity.  He and his co-counsel won a landmark victory in Padilla v. Kentucky in 2010, persuading the Court to recognize the right of noncitizen defendants to accurate information about deportation before they plead guilty.  His academic work also played a central role in the Supreme Court’s 2004 landmark case of Blakely v. Washington.

Awards:  Robert A. Gorman Award for Excellence in Teaching (2008), FBI and NYPD awards for outstanding performance in grave-robbing case as an AUSA at SDNY (case became the subject of a Bravo/BBC documentary).

Update: Letters of Endorsement for Stephanos Bibas

121 Law Professors: “Professor Bibas is widely respected in academia both as a scholar and as a person. His influential contributions to criminal law and procedure scholarship demonstrate a commitment to values of dignity, healing, and respect for all persons in criminal justice, and they are rigorous, balanced, and constructive. His fair-mindedness, conscientiousness, and personal integrity are beyond question. We have no doubt that his judicial temperament will reflect these qualities and that he will faithfully discharge his duty to apply the law fairly and even-handedly in all matters before him.”

Law professor and former colleague Tess Wilkenson-Ryan: He is not dogmatic; he is committed to evidence, facts, and logic. He is deeply invested in collegiality, and he values diverse perspectives. He has intellectual and personal qualities—integrity, compassion, and diligence—we should hope for in our federal judges, and I support his nomination.

Law professor, former colleague, and former Third Circuit clerk Sandra G. Mayson: praising Bibas’ “professional generosity” and mentorship, as well as his “powerful and versatile intellect.”

Former Dean of Students at University of Pennsylvania Law School Gary Clinton: ”Stephanos has, of course, a point of view. Nonetheless, I have not experienced that as coming from a closed mind. Rather, he enjoys the give and take of discussion, and he is not dismissive of other perspectives.”



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