Arizona governor wants the state out of the 9th Circuit

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Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced today that he is working with the state’s U.S. congressional delegation to push for legislation that would remove Arizona from the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the Arizona Republic reports.

“The Ninth Circuit is by far the most overturned and overburdened court in the country, with a 77 percent reversal rate. In 2010, it had three times as many reversals as most circuits had cases before the Supreme Court,” Gov. Ducey said in a news release.

“Meanwhile, due to its voluminous caseload and disproportionate size, the Ninth Circuit has an abysmal turnaround time of over 15 months for an average ruling—a figure that’s only going to grow as the docket does.

Though the 9th Circuit is derided by critics as being too liberal, Ducey focused mostly on the court’s huge caseload and resulting logistical problems. In a letter (PDF) sent to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in October, Ducey asked that they “entertain appropriate legislation” and begin hearings for “long-overdue reform.”

He suggested moving Arizona into the 10th Circuit, or creating a new circuit for Arizona and “other noncoastal states.”

The 9th Circuit is composed of Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington; the 10th Circuit is composed of Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Wyoming, Utah and parts of Yellowstone National Park in Montana and Idaho.

Efforts to break up the 9th Circuit go back at least as far as 1973. Retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who hails from Arizona, has suggested moving the state into the 10th Circuit. Former U.S. Sen. John Kyl, R-Ariz., pushed for change in the mid-2000s.

Kyl believes creating a new circuit is the best answer, because the California bar, which is very large, opposes breaking up the 9th Circuit.

“They would rather be the big dog in the biggest circuit,” Kyl says. “We find ourselves at a disadvantage in that situation.”

Kyl sees similar problems with the proposed 10th Circuit move for Arizona. “That’s Albuquerque and Denver and so on, and they like being the big dogs in their circuit.”

U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who is working with Gov. Ducey on the proposal for legislation, says he believes the chances for success are better than in the past but says problems remain, “mostly judges who don’t want to give up any of their portfolio.”

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