April 2017

In Memoriam: Judge Edward J. McManus

U.S. District Judge Edward J. McManus of the Northern District of Iowa died on March 20, 2017, in Cedar Rapids, at the age of 97. He was appointed to the Court in 1962 and served as its chief judge from that year until 1985, when he took senior status.
Judge McManus was born in 1920 in Keokuk, Iowa. He graduated with his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Iowa in 1940 and his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Iowa College of Law in 1942.
He practiced law briefly with his father and older brother in Keokuk before enlisting in the U.S. Naval Air Corps in March 1942. He retired from the Navy with the rank of lieutenant in 1946 and returned to practice law with his father.
McManus was also city attorney for Keokuk from 1946 to 1955 and authored the city’s municipal code. He was elected to the Iowa Senate, where, from 1955 to 1959, he had the seat that had once been held by his grandfather. He then was elected as Iowa’s lieutenant governor, serving from 1959 to 1961. After an unsuccessful bid for governor in 1960, he returned to the practice of law.

Two years later, he was appointed by President Kennedy as chief judge of the Northern District of Iowa. He was the first native-born Iowan appointed to the Court.

McManus was also city attorney for Keokuk from 1946 to 1955 and authored the city’s municipal code. He was elected to the Iowa Senate, where, from 1955 to 1959, he had the seat that had once been held by his grandfather. He then was elected as Iowa’s lieutenant governor, serving from 1959 to 1961. After an unsuccessful bid for governor in 1960, he returned to the practice of law.
A talented administrator and trial judge, he established Cedar Rapids as the headquarters of the District and centralized court functions once spread throughout the District. He also instituted preliminary pretrial reports, final pretrial conferences, the establishment of discovery and settlement deadlines, specific trial dates, and the requirement of written briefs and arguments instead of oral argument on motions and other submissions. These procedures, controversial when introduced, were so effective in civil case management that they were later incorporated in federal and state practice.
As stated in the Northern District of Iowa’s press release upon his death, “his judicial philosophy was guided by Rule 1 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure—to bring about the plain, just, speedy and inexpensive resolution of every case before him, with no backlog.”
At the time of his death, Judge McManus had served a record 54 years and eight months. According to the Federal Judicial Center, he was the longest-serving federal judge in Iowa’s history and the longest-serving incumbent federal judge.