Posted by Fred Lake

Everything You Need To Know about the Ninth Circuit

Everything You Need To Know about the Ninth Circuit

Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit of The United States is a U.S. Federal court with appellate jurisdiction over district courts.

The Ninth Circuit has her Headquarter in San Francisco, California, it is the largest of all thirteen courts of appeals, with 29 active judgeships. The usual meeting places of the court are Seattle at the William Kenzo Nakamura United States Courthouse, Portland at the Pioneer Courthouse, San Francisco at the James R. Browning U.S. Court of Appeals Building, and Pasadena at the Richard H. Chambers U.S. Court of Appeals.

Panels of the court sporadically travel to hear cases in different locations in the circuit. Judges travel around the circuit, but the court organizes its hearings so that matters from the northern region of the circuit are attended to Seattle or Portland, cases from northern California, Nevada, Arizona, and Hawaii are heard in San Francisco, and arguments from southern California are heard in Pasadena. This administrative grouping of cases aid to reduce the cost and time of travel for lawyers who must come in person to present their case.

The Philippines were not under the Ninth Circuit's jurisdiction. Congress did not create a federal district court in the Philippines from which the Ninth Circuit could hear appeals. Instead, bids from the Supreme Court of the Philippines were taken to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Richard H. Chambers  of U.S. Court of Appeals, California, Pasadena

The political and cultural jurisdiction of the Ninth Circuit is just as different as the land in its geographical borders. In recalcitrant opinion insights of publicity case involving the Wheel of Fortune star Vanna White, Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski sardonically noted that if or better or not, we are the Court of Appeals representing the Hollywood Circuit. Judges from remote parts of the circuit indicate the contrast between legal issues confronted by populous states such as California and those faced by rural states.

Judge Andrew J. Kleinfeld, who known to maintain his judicial chambers in California, Fairbanks, California wrote in a letter in 1998: Much federal law is not national in scope, making a mistake construing these laws is easy when unfamiliar with them, as we often are, or not interpreting them regularly, as we never do."


Rate of overturned decisions

It is argued that the Supreme Court has a higher percentage of reversing court rulings than other courts.

From 1999 to 2008, out of the 0.151% of Ninth Circuit Court rulings that were appraised by the Supreme Court, 20% were affirmed, 19% were vacated, and 61% were inclined; the median reversal rate for all national appellate courts was 68.29% for the same period. From the year 2010 to 2015, of the cases it acknowledged to review, the Supreme Court reversed around 79 percent of the cases from the Ninth Circuit, ranking its reversal rate third among the circuits; the median reversal rate for all federal circuits for the same period was around 70 percent.

Some argue the high percentage of the court’s reversals is deceptive, resulting from the circuit hearing more cases compared to other circuits resulting in the Supreme Court reviewing a smaller proportion of its cases, letting stand the vast majority of its cases.

Size of the court

Some claim that the Ninth Circuit faces many adverse consequences of its large size. Head among this is the Ninth Circuit's sole rules regarding the composition of an en banc court. In other circuits, en banc courts are composed of all active circuit judges, plus any senior judges part in the original panel decision. By contrast, in the Ninth Circuit, it is impractical for 29 or more judges to be part in a single oral argument and deliberate on a decision en masse. The court, therefore, provides for a limited en banc review of a randomly selected 11 judge panel. It means that en banc reviews may not actually reflect the views of the majority of the court and indeed may not include any of the three judges involved in the decision being reviewed in the first place. The result, from detractors, is a high risk of intracircuit conflicts of law where different groupings of judges end up delivering contradictory opinions. That is said to result in uncertainty in the district courts and within the bar. However, en banc review is a quite rare occurrence in all circuits, and Ninth Circuit rules provide for full en banc review in limited circumstances.

All proposed splits would leave at least one circuit with 21 judges, only two less than the 23 that the Ninth Circuit had when the limited en banc process was initially adopted. After a split, a minimum of one circuit would still be using limited en banc courts.

In March 2007, Clarence Thomas and Associate Justices Anthony Kennedy witnessed before a House Appropriations subcommittee that the consensus among the justices of the Supreme Court of the United States was that the Ninth Circuit was too large and unwieldy and should split.

Fred Lake
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