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Crapo Reintroduces Legislation to Split Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

Judicial Reorganization Act would provide for more expedient route to justice for Idahoans and others in the West

Washington, D.C--U.S. Senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Steve Daines (R-Montana) have reintroduced the Judicial Reorganization Act, S. 2970, to split the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in order to allow for more efficient caseload processing.  

“As a result of massive population growth across several western states, the Ninth Circuit has seen an overwhelming increase in caseloads, creating a lengthy process for those seeking justice,” said Senator Crapo.  “Splitting the Ninth Circuit would provide for a more expedient route to justice for many individuals in the West.” 

“When the Ninth Circuit Court serves nearly twice the number of people as the next-largest judicial circuit and carries five times the case backlog of the average circuit, then it should be clear to anyone with a calculator that the Ninth is overdue to be split,” said Senator Risch.  “Restructuring the Ninth Circuit will result in more manageable caseloads and allow the courts to more closely mirror the populations they serve.” 

“It’s been four decades since a non-partisan judicial commission determined the Ninth Circuit suffers from ‘serious difficulties with backlog and delay’ due to its size and scope.  Those difficulties have only gotten worse with time and inaction, leaving citizens under its jurisdiction—including all Alaskans—with less-than equal access to justice,” said Senator Sullivan.  “We know the problem.  The solution—splitting the Ninth Circuit and establishing a new Twelfth Circuit Court of Appeals—shouldn’t be controversial.  We’ve split circuits and created new ones in the past to address the changes in our country’s population.  What is controversial is a circuit court using short-cuts to manage its workload and litigants waiting 40 percent longer to get their cases resolved, something I saw firsthand as a judicial law clerk for the Ninth Circuit.  I’m glad to join Senator Crapo in introducing legislation to rectify this injustice and finally ensure the circuit court system fairly serves the rapidly-growing West.”  

“For years, the Ninth Circuit Court—the largest of the regional courts—has faced an unsustainably high number of cases per judge, resulting in serious administrative difficulties and significant backlogs.  The efficiency of the Ninth Circuit must be improved to ensure that justice is not unduly delayed for any individual,” said Senator Murkowski.  “This legislation would split the Ninth Circuit Court and create a Twelfth Circuit Court, allowing Alaska and other Western states to be served fairly and efficiently.” 

“Splitting the Ninth Circuit will improve Montanans’ access to justice and end the unacceptable backlogs and delays they are currently experiencing.  This is a much-needed reform to ensure Montanans are being well-served by our judicial system,” said Senator Daines.

 The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the largest in the nation with over nine states and two territorial courts, decides an extensive number of appeals annually, and accounts for nearly a third of all pending federal appeals.  It takes an average of 13 months to decide a case, which is almost five months more than the national average.  

Idaho is currently part of the Ninth Circuit and its judges have influence over Western issues that affect Idahoans.  The Judicial Reorganization Act would split the Ninth Circuit in two, establishing a new Twelfth Circuit Court of Appeals.  The Ninth Circuit would include California, Guam and Hawaii, while the new Twelfth Circuit would consist of Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.  S. 2970 would also authorize an additional five circuit court judge seats, allocating 21 to the new Ninth and 13 to the Twelfth to align with population size.  

Text of the bill can be found here