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Split Up the 9th Circuit? Bipartisan Judges on the Court Agree

Two judges on the 9th Circuit Court, one appointed by Reagan and the other by Clinton, testified that the court has become too large.

At a Senate Judiciary subcommittee field hearing on Thursday, two bipartisan members of the 9th Circuit Court voiced support for efforts to split up the west coast judicial circuit.

Judge Richard Tallman, appointed by President Bill Clinton, told the subcommittee that he has supported a split in the past and continues to do so:

Though more than a decade has passed since the last time a reorganization of the Ninth Circuit was seriously considered, my support for the creation of smaller circuits to better administer justice in the American West has not wavered. Indeed, time has only intensified the reasons why such a reorganization is overdue. By any metric the Ninth Circuit is simply too big, too spread out, too slow, and too overworked – the time for change is now.

Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain, appointed by President Ronald Reagan, echoed Tallman’s argument, citing the enormous caseload of the court:

Nine states, eleven thousand annual case filings, forty-seven judges, and sixty-five million people are too many for any non-discretionary appeals court to handle satisfactorily. The sheer magnitude of our court and its responsibilities negatively affects all aspects of our business, including our celerity, our consistency, and our clarity. Simply put, the size of the Ninth Circuity is out of sync with the rest of the Judicial Branch.

O’Scannlain told the subcommittee that restructuring of the court should not be based in “political ideology or party politics,” but rather the most efficient process of judicial administration.

Despite the recent partisan criticism of the court, though, O’Scannlian maintained his commitment to reform. “Restructuring has worked in the past. Restructuring will work again,” he said.

On the other hand, Judges Sidney Thomas and Mary Schroeder argued that technology has lightened the 9th Circuit’s load, and the court should remain intact. You can read their testimonies here.

The 9th Circuit entered the spotlight this year, with its key decisions regarding President Trump’s travel ban.