U.S. Court of Appeals

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United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (in case citations, 9th Cir.) is a U.S. federal court with appellate jurisdiction over the district courts in the following districts: • District of Alaska • District of Arizona • Central District of California • Eastern District of California • Northern District of California • Southern District of California • District of Hawaii • District of Idaho • District of Montana • District of Nevada • District of Oregon • Eastern District of Washington • Western District of Washington It also has appellate jurisdiction over the following territorial courts: • District Court of Guam • District of the Northern Mariana Islands Headquartered in San Francisco, California, the Ninth Circuit is by far the largest of the thirteen courts of appeals, with 29 active judgeships. The court's regular meeting places are Seattle at the William K. Nakamura Courthouse, Portland at the Pioneer Courthouse, San Francisco at the James R. Browning U.S. Court of Appeals Building, and Pasadena at the Richard H. Chambers U.S. Court of Appeals, but panels of the court occasionally travel to hear cases in other locations within its territorial jurisdiction. Although the judges travel around the circuit, the court arranges its hearings so that cases from the northern region of the circuit are heard in Seattle or Portland, cases from southern California are heard in Pasadena, and cases from northern California, Nevada, Arizona, and Hawaii are heard in San Francisco. For lawyers who must come and present their cases to the court in person, this administrative grouping of cases helps to reduce the time and cost of travel. The large size of the current court is due to the fact that both the population of the western states and the geographic jurisdiction of the Ninth Circuit have increased dramatically since Congress, in 1891, created the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The court was originally granted appellate jurisdiction over federal district courts in California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. As new states and territories were added to the federal judicial hierarchy in the twentieth century, many of those in the West were placed in the Ninth Circuit: the newly acquired territory of Hawaii in 1900, Arizona upon its accession to statehood in 1912, the then-territory of Alaska in 1948, Guam in 1951, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) in 1977. In 1979, the Ninth Circuit became the first federal judicial circuit to set up a Bankruptcy Appellate Panel. The cultural and political jurisdiction of the Ninth Circuit is just as varied as the land within its geographical borders. In a dissenting opinion in a rights of publicity case involving Wheel of Fortune star Vanna White, Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski sardonically noted that "[f]or better or worse, we are the Court of Appeals for the Hollywood Circuit." Judges from more remote parts of the circuit note the contrast between legal issues confronted by populous states such as California and those confronted by rural states such as Alaska, Idaho, and Montana. Judge Andrew J. Kleinfeld, who maintains his chambers in Fairbanks, Alaska, wrote in a 1998 letter: "Much federal law is not national in scope…. It is easy to make a mistake construing these laws when unfamiliar with them, as we often are, or not interpreting them regularly, as we never do." To find an attorney please check the largest attorney directory online or to find an california attorney search please check the largest california attorney search directory online or to find an unemployment attorney please check the largest unemployment attorney directory online or to find an juvenile attorney please check the largest juvenile attorney directory online. Controversy Alleged political liberalism: According to the most current count, the Ninth Circuit has the highest percentage of active judges appointed by Democratic presidents, with 59%. Until 2003, this percentage was much higher; a political stalemate over judicial nominations subsequently


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kept several vacancies on the court for several years. Nevertheless, such a percentage is not extreme in relation to the other Circuits; eight Circuits have partisan appointment ratios that are more skewed than the Ninth's. Critics try to explain the court's perceived liberal bias by reference to its relatively high proportion of Democratic appointees. Others have contested that the Circuit's high percentage of reversals is accounted for by the fact that the Ninth Circuit hears more cases than any other Circuit Size of the court: Many scholars and jurists cite regional differences between states in the circuit, as well as the practical, procedural, and substantive difficulties in administering a court of this size, as reasons why Congress should split the Ninth Circuit into two or more smaller circuit courts. Opponents of such a move claim that the court is functioning smoothly from an administrative standpoint, and that the real problem is not that the circuit is too large, but that Congress has not created enough judgeships to handle the court's workload. Opponents also point out that over half of the Ninth Circuit's cases come from the state of California, and thus dividing the Circuit would result in whichever portion included California being dominated by cases from a single state. Moreover, many who advocate the preservation of the current Ninth Circuit see politics as a motivating factor in the split movement. They claim that by implementing a scheme that isolates California from the other states in the circuit, the effect of a split will be to dilute the power of judges who have handed down rulings that have angered social conservatives. In addition to concerns over its legal doctrine, critics of the Ninth Circuit claim there are several adverse consequences of its large size. Chief among these is the Ninth Circuit's unique rules concerning the composition of an en banc court. In other circuits, en banc courts are composed of all active circuit judges, plus (depending on the rules of the particular court) any senior judges who took part in the original panel decision. By contrast, in the Ninth Circuit it is impractical for twenty-eight or more judges to take part in a single oral argument and deliberate on a decision en masse. The court thus provides for a “limited en banc” review of a randomly-selected 11 judge panel. This means that en banc reviews may not actually reflect the views of the majority of the court, and indeed may not include any of the three judges involved in the decision being reviewed in the first place. The result, according to detractors, is a high risk of intracircuit conflicts of law where different groupings of judges end up delivering contradictory opinions. This is said to cause uncertainty in the district courts and within the bar.


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