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9th Circuit

Bigger En Banc Panels Ditched

Posted Jul 24, 2007 8:32 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has decided that bigger is not necessarily better.

The San Francisco-based federal appeals court had tried using 15-judge en banc panels, but is reverting to its usual 11-judge panels, the National Law Journal reports. The experiment may have been prompted by efforts to split the circuit.

The appeals court has 27 active judges and chooses judges at random for its en banc panels. Other appeals courts are smaller and all their judges participate in en banc rulings.

"It was pretty unanimous that we were not gaining anything by going from 11 to 15 judges," 9th Circuit Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain told the legal newspaper. However, he said he would have preferred that the court try the experiment for a full two years, as originally promised.

The bigger panels meant each judge had less time to ask questions in oral arguments and had to spend more time in deliberations after arguments, O'Scannlain said.

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