9th Circuit

Three 9th Circuit judges testify against splitting their circuit

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Judge Sidney Thomas

Chief Judge Sidney Thomas. 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals photo.

Three judges on the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals opposed the idea of splitting their court during a House panel hearing on Thursday.

Testifying against a split were Chief Judge Sidney Thomas and Judges Carlos Bea and Alex Kozinski, report the National Law Journal (sub. req.) and Bloomberg Big Law Business. The judges cited economies of scale and better technological resources in their circuit, which is the nation’s largest in terms of territory, cases and population.

Law professors John Eastman of Chapman University and Brian Fitzpatrick of Vanderbilt University favored a split. Fitzpatrick said the large size of the court creates a higher probability that outlier judicial panels will be drawn to decide cases. Eastman said a lack of collegiality on larger courts makes it less likely that judges will work together to keep maverick tendencies and personal agendas in check. Their prepared testimony is here (PDF) and here (PDF).

The hearing was held by the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual property and the Internet. During the hearing, some subcommittee members commented on court rulings blocking President Donald Trump’s first and second travel bans. The 9th Circuit has upheld a nationwide injunction blocking the first ban.

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., told the 9th Circuit judges that courts in their circuit were “playing a dangerous game” by blocking Trump’s immigration orders.

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