Most of Idaho’s congressional delegation is getting behind a bill that would splinter off member states of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The 9th Circuit is the biggest appeals court in the country – both in terms of the number of states that belong to it and the sheer geographic expanse it covers. Most western states, like Idaho, are included.
It’s also long been criticized by pundits and presidents alike for having a political bent because the majority of judges were appointed by Democrats.
“You go to 9th Circuit and it's a disgrace, and I'm going to put in a major complaint. Because you cannot win, if you're us, a case in the 9th Circuit,” President Donald Trump said last year after a judge there temporarily blocked an executive order to ban migrants crossing the southern border from seeking asylum.
A new bill from Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo (R) would create a new 9th Circuit by sawing off California from the rest of the West to join Hawaii and Guam. Crapo says population booms in each of these states over the years has led to significant growing pains.
“This unbridled growth has created significant caseloads for the Court to consider,” Crapo said in a statement. “Splitting the 9th Circuit would allow a more expedient route to justice for individuals in the West.”
The remaining states would create a new 12th Circuit. That includes Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. Headquarters for the new 12th Circuit would be in Phoenix, Portland and Seattle.
The bill would also add several judges to the federal bench. In all, the reformed 9th Circuit would have 21 judges, while the new 12th Circuit would have 13.
The idea isn’t new. Two congressional commissions have looked at the issue, but they were split on the practicality of dividing the court.
In 1973, Hruska Commission recommended dividing the 9th Circuit with California as an anchor point. The New York Times reported at the time that such a plan could lead to split decisions if the northern California bench rules differently on the same issue being considered down south.
Another commission in 1998 called splitting the court “impractical and unnecessary.” That said, the group did think it could be restructured into smaller, regionally-based divisions that could handle issues that come up there. Any appeals from those divisions would've been kicked up to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Idaho’s junior Senator Jim Risch (R) joins Sens. Martha McSally (R-Arizona), Steve Daines (R-Montana), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) in co-sponsoring the measure.
Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson (R) introduced a similar bill in the Democratically-controlled House earlier this year.
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