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What does the term “en banc” mean?

Recently, the Seventh Circuit and the Fourth Circuit appellate courts have heard and rendered significant decisions “en banc” within the last month.  On February 22, 2017, a divided Seventh Circuit held that a woman whose son had died within in an Indiana Department of Correction facility can now proceed forward on her case to trial reversing summary judgment in favor of the health care providers who treated son who was chronically ill.  http://media.ca7.uscourts.gov/opinion.html. In another case, the Fourth Circuit sat “en banc” when it addressed a Maryland ban on the possession of AR-15 rifles and other semi-automatic rifles, which forbids law abiding citizens from possessing those types of weapons for protection of themselves or their families. http://www.ca4.uscourts.gov/opinions/en-banc-cases.   

However, the use and understanding of the term “en banc” may not be widely known.  In the legal context, the French term is generally understood to be a session where a case is heard before all the judges of a court rather than by a partial panel of judges.  Other than the United States Supreme Court and the State Supreme Courts, most appellate courts hear cases in smaller panels, usually panels of three.  For example, the fifteen members of the Indiana Court of Appeals hear approximately 2,500 cases each year in panels of the three appellate judges.  http://www.in.gov/judiciary/appeals/. If a party does not prevail with a panel of appellate judges and depending on the particular appellate court where the case is being heard, a party may have the ability to petition to have its case heard before the entire court or a majority of judges in that court.  As can be expected and statistically speaking, an appeals court does not generally hear cases en banc.  Hearing a case en banc is generally reserved as an exception to the normally process and for significant cases or issues, like prison medical care and firearms regulations.  A case being heard en banc is usually decided by a majority vote of the judges from that court or circuit. 

Looking for a Terre Haute civil rights attorney that understands your criminal and appellate rights? Contact the attorneys at Keffer Barnhart LLP today if you have questions or believe your constitutional or criminal rights have been violated.  We stand ready to provide our clients with trusted representation and accurate information regarding the law and its application to their individualized case.  Act now and contact us today at 1-800-NOT-GUILTY or (317) 857-0160.