Northwest News

Idaho’s Republican senators have bill to split 9th Circuit Court of Appeals

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has jurisdiction over Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.

Idaho U.S. Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, both Republicans, say this is too much territory and the court is overloaded with cases.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is the largest in the nation, covering 20 percent of its population, according to Crapo. It accounts for nearly a third of all pending federal appeals and takes an average of 13 months to decide a case, which is almost five months more than the national average, Crapo says.

The San Francisco-based court has long been a target of Republican lawmakers and presidents, and a recent target of President Donald Trump. They all claim it is too liberal.

On Wednesday, Crapo introduced legislation to split the 9th Circuit in two and establish a new 12th Circuit Court of Appeals. The 9th Circuit would include California, Guam and Hawaii, while the new 12th Circuit would comprise Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. Risch is co-sponsoring the bill.

“Established in 1890, the Ninth Circuit covers a massive portion of the West, which has experienced explosive growth across several states, including Idaho,” Crapo said in a news release. “This unbridled growth has created significant caseloads for the Court to consider. The sheer size of the Court creates an astonishingly lengthy journey for those seeking justice. Splitting the Ninth Circuit would allow a more expedient route to justice for individuals in the West.”

Crapo, an attorney, clerked for the 9th Circuit after law school.

The Judicial Reorganization Act, S. 1797, would also authorize an additional five circuit court seats, allocating 21 judges to the new 9th and 13 to the 12th to align with population size.

Also co-sponsoring the bill are Republicans Sens. Martha McSally (Arizona), Steve Daines (Montana), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Dan Sullivan (Alaska).

The bill will go to the Senate Judiciary Committee, of which Crapo is a member, for consideration.

Idaho U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, R-District 2, in January introduced similar legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

New Idaho U.S. Rep. Russ Fulcher, R-District 1, supports Simpson’s legislation to split the 9th Circuit, his office said Wednesday.

Idaho Statesman investigative reporter Cynthia Sewell was named Idaho Press Club reporter of the year in 2017 and 2008. A University of Oregon graduate, she joined the Statesman in 2005. Her family has lived in Idaho since the mid-1800s.