‘OUR COURTS ARE CLOGGED AND DYSFUNCTIONAL’
U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan is calling for the creation of a new court of appeals. He recently filed legislation to split the Ninth Circuit and to authorize additional judgeships in order to ease caseloads.
His bill, S. 3259, the Judicial Efficiency Improvement Act, is cosponsored by Sen. Steve Daines of Montana. It would split the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and create a new Twelfth Circuit Court of Appeals, which would be headquartered in Seattle, Washington, and authorize all additional judgeships recommended by the Judicial Conference of the United States.
The new appellate court would serve Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. It would be served by 14 appellate court judges.
The 9th Circuit, headquartered in San Francisco, would serve California, Hawaii, Guam, and the Mariana Islands with 20 appellate court judges.
“The last time Congress passed a comprehensive Article III judgeship bill was in 1990—nearly three decades ago,” Sullivan said.
“This is unacceptable. Our courts are clogged and dysfunctional, and the public is losing confidence in our judicial system. The Judicial Efficiency Improvement Act would codify the recommendations of the Judicial Conference by authorizing significantly more judges for District and Appellate courts across the country. It would also create a much-needed new circuit by spitting the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals—which has 65 million Americans under its jurisdiction, almost 30 million more than the next largest circuit. Currently, the Ninth Circuit has the highest caseload per judge by far of all circuits, four times the number of backlogged cases and on average it takes 30 percent longer for the Ninth Circuit to dispose of an appeal than the other circuits.”
“In 1970, Chief Justice Warren Burger warned that ‘a sense of confidence in the courts is essential to maintain the fabric of ordered liberty for a free people,’ and cautioned that inefficiency and delay in our courts of appeals could destroy that confidence. Unfortunately, as it is currently constituted, the Ninth Circuit Court is inefficient, it delays, and therefore denies justice for millions of Americans. We cannot allow the confidence in our system of justice to be undermined by continuing a court of appeals that is so large and so unwieldy,” said Sullivan, who is a lawyer.
Sullivan submitted testimony to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Oversight, Agency Action, Federal Rights and Federal Courts, which earlier today held a hearing on the structure of the federal courts. The hearing witnesses included Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain, a senior judge on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, testifying in support of adding another court of appeals.
The Judicial Conference of the United States is the national policy-making body for the federal courts. It is comprised of the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, the Chief Judge from each Judicial Circuit, the Chief Judge of the Court of International Trade, and a district judge from each regional circuit. Every two years, the Judicial Conference makes recommendation on judgeships.
The Judicial Efficiency Improvement Act would implement the 2017 Judicial Conference recommendations of:
- Authorizing five Appellate Court Judgeships for the Ninth Circuit.
- Authorizing 52 permanent District Court Judgeships around the county.
- Converting eight temporary District Court Judgeships to permanent judgeships.
Pictured above, Sen. Dan Sullivan, professor Brian T. Fitzpatrick (Vanderbilt University law professor), Diarmuid O’Scannlain (senior United States circuit judge), Sen. Steve Daines of Montana.