By DEBRA J. SAUNDERS
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT
WASHINGTON — How big is the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals? The San-Francisco-based circuit is so big that it represents nine states, including Nevada, 20 percent of the U.S. population and 40 percent of the nation’s land mass. It’s so big that Congress has looked at bills to split the circuit since 1941, and it’s so big that none of those measures have succeeded.
This year, however, Sens. Jeff Flake and John McCain, both R-Ariz., see the possibility of success. They’ve introduced legislation to create a new 12th Circuit by peeling away six states — Nevada, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Arizona and Alaska. The slimmed-down 9th Circuit would continue to hear appeals from California, Oregon and Hawaii, as well as Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.
The last time Washington created a new federal circuit — the 11th — was 1981. There were proposals to split the 5th and 9th Circuits, but the 9th remained the same while the 5th Circuit — Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Florida — was split. “It was easy to do. You had six states. You could divide them three-three,” Pittsburgh School of Law Professor Arthur Hellman observed.
Also, Hellman noted, “There was a consensus among the legal community that the split should happen.”
Not so the 9th. Some circuit judges have resisted attempts to reduce its size, which also would reduce their national impact.
….For years conservatives have mocked the 9th Circuit as the “Nutty 9th,” partly because of its unusually high rate of U.S. Supreme Court reversals, some of them unanimous. “If you can’t get anyone on the Supreme Court to agree with you,” Fitzpatrick opined, “it’s not a good sign.”