(Quin Hillyer, Liberty Headlines) A senior judge on the huge and controversial U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals headlined a Congressional hearing August 24 to advocate that his own circuit court be split into smaller units or otherwise reorganized.

The venerable Judge Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain, who has served the Ninth Circuit since 1986, told a Senate committee that the circuit handles appeals from too large a territory, making it “the federal judiciary’s 800-pound gorilla.” The circuit handles appeals from Alaska, Hawaii, Washington State, Oregon, California, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Arizona, and even the territories of Guam and the Marianas Islands. That means it hears appeals from nearly 20 percent of the entire U.S. population and more than 45 percent of the nation’s territory.

The Ninth Circuit does have 29 judges (most have about 13) – but that’s still just 16 percent of all regional circuit judgeships, all of others of whom cover a far smaller physical territory.

The court overall also has a reputation as the most liberal in the country, far outside the judicial mainstream, and it consistently ranks among the circuit courts whose decisions are most often reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court. Critics say the Ninth Circuit reversals often comprise some of the most spectacularly wrong or even absurd rulings of any in the country, and conservatives often say the court’s leftism is another good reason to break it into smaller courts and isolate the liberals in California.

O’Scannlain, however, said the court’s ideology should not factor into a decision about its reorganization.

“Restructuring proposals should be analyzed on grounds of effective judicial administration— grounds that remain unaffected by Supreme Court ‘batting averages’ or public perception of our decisions. [Nonetheless], restructuring the circuit is the best way to cure the administrative ills affecting my court, an institution that has far exceeded reasonably manageable proportions….”

[The full news summary is here.]

 

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