Common Sense and Compassion: A Judicial Biography of Ronald Longstaff

59 Pages Posted: 17 Aug 2018

Date Written: July 26, 2018


For over four decades Ronald Earl Longstaff served the United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, first as a federal magistrate and then as an Article III federal judge. Longstaff’s professional life provides a unique window into the Iowa bench and bar from the 1960s to the 2000s. Over the course of his career, Longstaff heard a remarkably diverse range of cases, from civil rights actions to commercial disputes to murder trials. A highly respected and admired judge, Longstaff exemplified the two qualities he viewed as central to judicial service: compassion and common sense. Judge Longstaff’s life is also a story of perseverance and triumph over adversity. As a child in Pittsburg, Kansas, he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. The treating physicians advised Longstaff’s parents to institutionalize him, a common practice in the 1940s for children with cerebral palsy. But to Ronald Longstaff’s good fortune, his parents ignored the doctors’ advice. The Longstaffs’ decision to keep their son in school made it possible for him to achieve his full potential, which eventually included decades of service as a distinguished federal judge.

Keywords: jurisprudence, legal history, judicial biography, disability, cerebral palsy, education, social security, movement disorders

Suggested Citation

Gaughan, Anthony J., Common Sense and Compassion: A Judicial Biography of Ronald Longstaff (July 26, 2018). 66 Drake Law Review 585 (2018), Available at SSRN:

Anthony J. Gaughan (Contact Author)

Drake University - Law School ( email )

27th & Carpenter Sts.
Des Moines, IA 50311
United States
5152712060 (Phone)


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