Legal Terminology: LPI Word of the Month – EN BANC

En banc is a French term and it means “on the bench.”  It refers to a special procedure where all judges in a given court hear a case, not just one judge or a smaller panel of judges.  When the court believes that the matters are especially complex or important, the judges will sit en banc to hear the matter. 

Cases in the United States courts of appeals are heard by three-judge panels, chosen at random.  If a party loses before a circuit panel, the party may appeal for a rehearing en banc.  A majority of the active circuit judges must agree to hear a case en banc.  The Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure state that en banc proceedings are disfavored but may be ordered where the issue is exceptionally important.  (Fed. R. App. P. 35(a))

Each circuit has its own particular rules regarding en banc proceedings.  A process similar to our en banc proceedings are used in other countries.  For more information visit

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