Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz) has introduced a bill to split the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals into two circuit courts. The American Bar Association has come out against the split in a lengthy and detailed memo. The Chief Judge of the Ninth Circuit, Sidney R. Thomas, and many other Ninth Circuit judges have also spoken out against the split. They say splitting the Ninth would be costly and inefficient, and without significant benefits.
Nonetheless, Senator Flake’s bill has gained traction among conservatives who despise the Ninth Circuit’s reputation as a liberal court. The proposed split would gerrymander this appellate court. The proposal sequesters the states of California, Oregon, and Hawaii–all blue states–into the remaining Ninth Circuit. The new proposed Twelfth Circuit would consist of the red states of Alaska, Idaho, and Montana; the purple states of Arizona and Nevada; and blue Washington State. Dominated by conservative states, the Republicans would fill new Twelfth Circuit judgeships with right-wing appointees.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court takes few cases on appeal, the federal appeals courts usually have the last word in the law. A new circuit court stocked with right-wing judges in lifetime appointments has the potential to significantly tilt American law in a right-wing direction.