House Approves Bill to Split Ninth Circuit Court

House representatives passed a bill Tuesday that would split the Ninth Circuit court, representing over 56 million people, into three judgeships.
( [email protected] ) Oct 07, 2004 08:25 PM EDT

The House of Representatives passed a bill on Tuesday that would split the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals into three courts, creating new twelve circuit and thirteenth circuit courts.

A three-judge panel from the Ninth Circuit ruled earlier this year that the "Under God" phrase recited in the Pledge of Allegiance amounts to an unconstitutional "endorsement of religion."

Considered the most liberal, the Ninth Circuit currently represents 56 million people, roughly one-fifth of the nation's population; and has 48 judges to serve an area that encompasses nearly 40 percent of the geographic area of the United States, according to a press release from the House Judiciary Committee.

As a result, the circuit has been unable to keep up with pending cases.

"The Ninth Circuit has become so big -- in geographic size, in workload, and in the number of its active and senior judges -- that it can no longer appropriately discharge its civic functions on behalf of the American people," said House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-Wis.).

"This overburdened circuit also has the most numbers of appeals filed, the highest percentage increase in appeals filed, the most number of appeals still pending, and the longest median time until disposition," said the Judiciary Committee.

The bill passed on Tuesday, S. 878, would only include California, Guam, Hawaii, and the Northern Marianas Islands as part of the new Ninth Circuit, moving other states and to a new Twelfth Circuit consisting of Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, and Montana; and a new Thirteenth Circuit, consisting of Alaska, Oregon, and Washington.

“Given the problems created by its sheer size, I believe that we have no choice but to split the Ninth Circuit three ways," Sensenbrenner said. This legislation also adds new judges to the Ninth Circuit to ensure that future caseload demands made on the new Ninth will more closely mirror its judgeship resources, he said.

"These additional judgeships are inextricably linked with splitting the Ninth Circuit and they will only move legislatively as one administrative restructuring package,” said Sensenbrenner.

The Senate will be next to review the bill.