In a statement submitted to Congress prior to a House Judiciary Committee hearing held March 16, 2017, the American Bar Association recommended against a split based on their mission:

One of the primary goals of the American Bar Association is to promote improvements in the administration of justice.

In 1972 the ABA initially supported a proposal to split the Ninth Circuit, then composed of 15 judges. The ABA later rescinded that position on the basis that innovations and procedural changes—including more judgeships—enabled the court to efficiently handle its large caseload. Since then, ABA has reviewed several studies and proposals to split the court and has maintained the position that it should remain whole.

Their position on the current bills in Congress is that:

  • With current technology there is no practical reason to favor a smaller circuit
  • No comprehensive evaluation in the past 25 years has concluded that the Ninth Circuit’s size has compromised its ability to deliver justice
  • Circuit division does not reduce caseload or eliminate backlog; it only reallocates it
  • The rate of reversal of Ninth Circuit decisions by the Supreme Court is not the highest of all the circuits, and there is no evidence that size has any bearing on reversal rates
  • In 2006 start-up costs for a two-way split were estimated at $96 million, with recurring annual costs ranging from $13 to $16 million

We believe that the views of judges and the lawyers who practice daily before the courts in the Ninth Circuit should be accorded great deference.  In the past, Congress has agreed that the views of the affected legal community carry great weight and has refrained from using its power to restructure a circuit unless there was consensus within Congress and the affected legal community that it was absolutely necessary and there was agreement over how best to reconfigure the circuit.


A handful of Members from the affected states persist in trying to split the Ninth Circuit despite the fact that neither the public, the legal community, nor the judiciary has rallied in support of any of the bills. Some Members are so determined to split the Ninth Circuit that they have tied the fate of legislation to authorize new judgeships to enactment of legislation to divide the Ninth. Given these circumstances it is not unreasonable to question what Members hope to achieve by division.

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