Still Pissed Off About the Hawley-Smoot Tariff

Monday, October 17, 2005

Supremes Reverse Ninth Circuit

The new Supreme Court term is only two weeks old, and already they have reversed the Ninth Circuit. The case itself isn't particularly interesting -- basically, the Supremes say the Ninth Circuit expressly ignored a clear rule from last term that states can choose their own procedures for death penalty cases, so long as they stay within Constitutional bounds. More interesting is that a) the Ninth Circuit, which is reversed in over ninety percent of its cases that the Supremes review, is continuing its proud tradition, and b) the Ninth Circuit apparently feels free to flat-out ignore the Supremes when it feels like it.

Drastic changes may be underway for the the Ninth, incidentally. There has been talk for years about splitting it up, partly because it's far and away the largest of the federal circuits, and partly because highly conservative states (like Idaho and Montana) get lumped together with California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii. But efforts to split the circuit have so far dead-ended.

Now, Nevada Senator John Ensign and Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski have reached a compromise that could make the split happen. Older plans were to split the Ninth into three Circuits, but the Ensign/Murkowski deal is to split it into only two, with California, Hawaii and Guam in the Ninth and all the others (Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, Idaho, and Montana -- I'm doing this by memory, so correct me if I'm wrong) would be in the newly-created Twelfth.

Of course, if ideological compatibility is really a primary motivating factor, then it makes no sense for Idaho and Washington to be in the same circuit, but a reorganization that cut out Washington and Oregon would leave the Twelfth with an extraordinarily small population and, hence, caseload.