January 26, 2021

Idaho Delegation Introduces Legislation to Split the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and add a Federal Judge to Idaho

Washington, D.C.--The Idaho Congressional Delegation introduced legislation to address the federal judicial crisis in Idaho.  H.R. 320 and its Senate companion would split the Ninth Circuit Court into two circuits.  The new Ninth Circuit would be composed of California, Guam, Hawaii, and Northern Mariana Islands.  The new Twelfth Circuit would be composed of the following states: Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. 

Every few decades, Congress must exercise its Constitutional authority and realign the United States Courts of Appeals into more efficient and manageable circuits that best represent the people within the circuit and provide them with an expeditious judicial process.  This happened most recently in 1981 when the Eleventh Circuit of Alabama, Florida and Georgia was created from the old Fifth Circuit leaving Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas in the Fifth Circuit. 

“The Ninth Circuit was established 131 years ago.  The region has experienced exponential growth since that time, particularly in Idaho, which has created significant caseloads for the Court to consider,” said Senator Mike Crapo.  “Once again, the numbers of caseloads create an astonishingly slow process for those seeking justice.  Splitting the Ninth Circuit will help generate a swifter route to justice for those in the region.” 

“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 Jim Risch.  “Restructuring the Ninth Circuit will result in more manageable caseloads and allow the courts to more closely mirror the populations they serve.” 

“Putting aside any political, historical or emotional arguments, the numbers speak for themselves on why a split of the Ninth Circuit is inevitable,” said Congressman Mike Simpson.  “Over 65 million Americans, or one in five citizens, reside in the Ninth Circuit.  The next largest circuit has 30 million fewer residents.  The Ninth Circuit has more people than the First, Second, Third and D.C. Circuits combined!  We need a new circuit.” 

“It’s no secret that Californians are flocking to our state.  The differences between California and Idaho’s policies, values, and economies couldn’t be more different—and that’s what makes us an attractive destination for families and businesses alike,” said Congressman Russ Fulcher.  “Despite these differences, our states have been lumped together into the Ninth District Court of Appeals-- meaning cases for Idaho and western rural states like Arizona, Nevada, and Montana are heard in San Francisco by judges who may interpret federal laws with influence from a more metropolitan region.  The addition of a new 12th Circuit Federal Court would be beneficial for every state involved by lowering the overall caseload for each court.” 

H.R. 319 and S. 23 allows the President to appoint one additional federal district judge for the district of Idaho, increasing the number of district judges to three.  The federal district of Idaho has had just two federal district judges since 1954, when the population of the state was at 600,000.  It is now at 1.7 million and growing, and as Idaho’s population grows, so does the number of court cases.  As a result, the nonpartisan Judicial Conference of the United States has formally recommend that Congress authorize one new permanent district judge in Idaho consistently since 2003. 

“For nearly two decades, the Judicial Conference of the United States has consistently found Idaho to be facing a judicial emergency based on weighted caseload numbers per active judge,” said Senator Crapo.  “Idaho is in a precarious position to serve justice expeditiously, having faced an increase of caseloads by over 50 percent in the last few years.  We have recommended a new judgeship for years, and it is past time Congress put aside partisan difference to address this crisis now.” 

“Idaho is the fastest growing state in the nation, yet our judiciary is still operating with the same number of judges as it did in the 1950s,” said Senator Risch.  “With triple the population and an immense caseload, it’s time Idaho is granted a permanent third district judge.” 

“As the legal community in Idaho well knows, the state of Idaho is facing a federal judicial crisis,” said Congressman Simpson.  “We are one of just three states in the nation with only two federal judge seats for the entire state.  This means our federal judges have an extraordinary caseload and high number of weighted filings per judgeship.  As we all know, justice delayed is justice denied, and it is beyond time to authorize another judgeship for Idaho.” 

“Since being assigned two district judges in 1954, Idaho’s population has tripled. The surge in residents, addition of new industries, and 43% increase in criminal filings have put major strain on the capacity of these positions and seriously slowed down the judicial process,” said Congressman Fulcher.  “Rather than the current costly, short-term fix of bringing in visiting judges to lower the backlog, it is common sense to add a third, permanent district judge to Idaho’s federal district court.  This action will not only save money and increase efficiency in the courts, it will, most importantly, ensure Idahoans constitutional rights to due process and a speedy trial.” 

H.R. 319 and 320 have been referred to the House Judiciary Committee for further consideration.  S. 23 has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, of which Senator Crapo is a member, for further consideration.  The Senate version of H.R. 320 will be introduced on the Senate Floor when the Senate can move from the impeachment trial to regular legislative business. 

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