Montana U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Bozeman, spoke on the Senate floor in Washington, D.C., this week, advocating legislation that would split the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals because its size has led to a case backlog.
Daines said it is a matter of equal access to justice. There are 14,000 cases pending in the Ninth Circuit, three times more than the next largest, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which has 4,700 cases pending, he said.
“The Ninth Circuit is unable to provide Americans in the West with the service they deserve,” he said.
Daines has partnered with Republican Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan to introduce the legislation that would split the Ninth Circuit in two: the Ninth and the 12th circuits. Two Republican lawmakers from Arizona introduced similar legislation in the U.S. House last month.
For several decades Republicans have attempted to split up the Ninth Circuit, which has a liberal reputation on environmental regulations.
The reconfigured Ninth Circuit would then comprise California, Guam, Hawaii and the Northern Mariana Islands. The new Twelfth Circuit would include Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.
The Ninth Circuit has averaged the longest time from case appeal to termination over the last five years at 14.7 months. The next longest time is the Sixth Circuit at 12.7 months, Daines said.
The Ninth Circuit was created in 1837 for new states Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi. In 1855, Congress established the 10th Circuit to deal with land disputes in California. After the Civil War, the courts were reorganized into nine circuits, the Ninth covering California, Oregon and Nevada. New western states were then added to either the Eighth or Ninth circuits, according to the Federal Judicial Center.