September/october 2010
In Memoriam: Magistrate Judge Richard W. Peterson

On Tuesday, October 19, retired Magistrate Judge Richard W. Peterson passed away from complications due to an aortic aneurysm. He was 85 years old.

Richard W. Peterson was born in Council Bluffs, Iowa. After serving in the U.S. Army from 1943 to 1945 he went on to receive his undergraduate degree from the University of Iowa in 1949. His father established the Peterson law firm in Council Bluffs in 1908. His uncle and his older brother also practiced with the firm. “Looking back,” he said in a 1999 article, “I don’t know that I ever considered any other field of endeavor. The law seemed to be the natural direction.” He received his law degree from the University of Iowa School of Law in 1951. He joined the family firm, then known as Kimball, Peterson, Smith & Peterson. Years later he became a partner in the firm of Telpner, Peterson, Smith & Ruesch, where he practiced until 1999.

Judge Peterson was known for his enthusiasm for court history. He was active in the Historical Society of the United States Courts in the Eighth Circuit from 1986 to 2010 and served as President from 1989 to 1999. He also served as Court Historian for the Southern District of Iowa. Among his contributions to preserving history are a number of works he authored, such as The Court Moves West, which traces some 19th century U.S. Supreme court cases that originated in Iowa, and portions of No One is Above the Law, a history of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa. Judge Peterson retired in 1999, but served as a recalled magistrate judge from 2003 to 2005. He served on the federal bench for over 43 years.



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