United States Court of Appeals For The Ninth Circuit - History and Background

History and Background

Year Jurisdiction Total population Pop. as % of nat'l pop. Number of active judgeships
1891 CA, ID, MT, NV, OR, WA 2,087,000 3.3% 2
1900 CA, HI, ID, MT, NV, OR, WA 2,798,000 3.7% 3
1920 AZ, CA, HI, ID, MT, NV, OR, WA 7,415,000 6.7% 3
1940 AZ, CA, HI, ID, MT, NV, OR, WA 11,881,000 9.0% 7
1960 AK, AZ, CA, GU, HI, ID, MT, NV, OR, WA 22,607,000 12.6% 9
1980 AK, AZ, CA, GU, HI, ID, MP, MT, NV, OR, WA 37,170,000 16.4% 23
2000 AK, AZ, CA, GU, HI, ID, MP, MT, NV, OR, WA 54,575,000 19.3% 28
2007 AK, AZ, CA, GU, HI, ID, MP, MT, NV, OR, WA 60,400,000 19.9% 28
2009 AK, AZ, CA, GU, HI, ID, MP, MT, NV, OR, WA 61,403,307 19.72% 29

The large size of the current court is due to the fact that both the population of the western states and the geographic jurisdiction of the Ninth Circuit have increased dramatically since Congress, in 1891, created the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The court was originally granted appellate jurisdiction over federal district courts in California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. As new states and territories were added to the federal judicial hierarchy in the twentieth century, many of those in the West were placed in the Ninth Circuit: the newly acquired territory of Hawaii in 1900, Arizona upon its accession to statehood in 1912, the then-territory of Alaska in 1948, Guam in 1951, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) in 1977. The Ninth Circuit also had jurisdiction over China, in that it had jurisdiction over appeals from the United States Court for China during that court's existence from 1906 to 1943. However, the Philippines were never under the Ninth Circuit's jurisdiction; Congress never created a federal district court there from which the Ninth Circuit could hear appeals. Instead, Congress provided that appeals from the Supreme Court of the Philippines would go directly to the Supreme Court of the United States. In 1979, the Ninth Circuit became the first federal judicial circuit to set up a Bankruptcy Appellate Panel as authorized by the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1978.

The cultural and political jurisdiction of the Ninth Circuit is just as varied as the land within its geographical borders. In a dissenting opinion in a rights of publicity case involving Wheel of Fortune star Vanna White, Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski sardonically noted that "or better or worse, we are the Court of Appeals for the Hollywood Circuit." Judges from more remote parts of the circuit note the contrast between legal issues confronted by populous states such as California and those confronted by rural states such as Alaska, Idaho, and Montana. Judge Andrew J. Kleinfeld, who maintains his chambers in Fairbanks, Alaska, wrote in a 1998 letter: "Much federal law is not national in scope.... It is easy to make a mistake construing these laws when unfamiliar with them, as we often are, or not interpreting them regularly, as we never do."

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