Indivisible East Bay’s Judiciary Team keeps tabs on the president’s and congressional GOP’s assaults on our independent judiciary. Focusing on the federal judiciary, we carefully examine federal court nominees and attempts to pack the courts in favor of right-wing judges. We are particularly sensitive to judicial nominees that lack the qualifications or whose legal philosophy is far outside the mainstream. We’re also concerned by current GOP moves to degrade long-standing norms which ensure that the judiciary remains co-equal with the executive and legislative branches of government.
Since January 2017, we’ve engaged with Judiciary Committee ranking member Senator Dianne Feinstein and her staff on issues involving the federal courts. Like Senator Feinstein, we are committed to maintaining an upright and independent court system for the administration of justice. To that end we mobilize our members and communities to resist threats to judicial independence.
The federal court system has three levels:
- First level: District Courts that hold trials
- Second level: Circuit Courts of Appeal
- Third level: Supreme Court
Most states have one or more federal District Courts by region, e.g., the United States District Court for the Northern District of California has courthouses in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, and Eureka. The fifty states and the U.S. territories are assigned into eleven judicial circuits. The District of Columbia is covered by the District of Columbia Circuit. Another appeals court, the Federal Circuit, exists for specific kinds of cases, e.g., patents and claims against the federal government.
California is within the Ninth Circuit court of appeals, along with Washington State, Oregon, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Arizona, Hawaii, Alaska, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands.
Because the U.S. Supreme Court can take only a limited number of cases per year, the federal courts of appeal are usually the last word in the law. For this reason we scrutinize the qualifications and legal philosophy of nominees to any of the federal appeals courts.