U.S. SENATE —U.S. Senators Steve Daines (R-MT) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) today introduced two bills to address failures in America’s system of justice by restructuring the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which, because of its size and scope, denies citizens in its jurisdiction equal access to justice.
The Circuit Court of Appeals Restructuring and Modernization Act would split the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals into two circuits: the Ninth and the Twelfth Circuits. The reconfigured Ninth Circuit would then be comprised of California, Guam, Hawaii, and the Northern Mariana Islands. The new Twelfth Circuit would include Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.
The Federal Courts of Appeals Modernization Act would establish a commission to study the Federal Circuit Courts of Appeals system to identify the changes needed to be made in order to promote an “expeditious and effective disposition” of the Ninth Circuit caseload. Two prior commission—one in 1973 and the other in 1998—determined that the Ninth Circuit had an overly-burdensome size and scope negatively impacting the administration of justice for the nearly 65 million Americans subject to its jurisdiction.
“The Ninth Circuit is overburdened and fails to deliver justice for the American people,” Daines stated. “It’s time Montanans and other western states had a court system that functions and provides Americans with the justice they need and deserve.”
“The population of the Ninth Circuit is nearly 85 percent bigger than the next largest circuit and covers 40 percent of our country’s land mass,” Senator Sullivan said. “It is simply too large, its scope is too wide, and it has long passed its ability to provide equal access to justice under the law. For decades, rather than address these issues for our citizens—including my constituents in Alaska—the court has used short-cuts to manage its workload. As a former judicial law clerk for the Ninth Circuit, I saw this firsthand. It’s time we address this issue rather than continue to allow our system of justice to be short-changed.”
About the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit:
- At 64.4 million people served, the current Ninth Circuit is the largest circuit by population, as well as the largest land area. It includes 20 percent of the nation’s population and is 85 percent larger than the next largest circuit, which serves just 34.8 million people.
- The Ninth Circuit has had on average more than 32 percent of all cases pending nationally. It currently has 13,334 cases pending— nearly three times more than the next closest circuit, the Fifth Circuit, at 5,593 cases pending.
- The Ninth Circuit has averaged the longest median time from appeal to termination over the last five years at 14.7 months. The next closest was the D.C. Circuit at 11.8 months.
- In recent years, there has been a bipartisan push to help the Ninth Circuit with its heavy caseload, including a call by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) in the 105th Congress for a commission to study the Ninth Circuit. This was the second commission to suggest that changes needed to be made to the structure of the federal courts of appeal.