Slain judge supported 9th Circuit split

It seems U.S. District Judge John Roll, one of the victims of the Tuscon shooting, was a keen supporter of Republican-led efforts to split the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals into two smaller courts.

It was no secret. Your blogger found out about it when he came upon a Wyoming Law Review article (p109) Roll wrote in 2007 called “The 115 Year-Old Ninth Circuit – Why a Split is Necessary and Inevitable.”

The suggestion that the court be split is an old one that is, in theory, back on the agenda now that Republicans control the House. A bill that would split the circuit has already been introduced. Some Republicans like the idea of having a new circuit that would not be influenced so much by liberal judges from California. Other supporters of the move, like Roll, focus more on administrative issues, citing the fact that the 9th Circuit is the biggest circuit by geography, caseload and number of judges.

Just for the record, in footnote 248, Roll cites a Los Angeles Daily Journal article your blogger wrote on the 9th Circuit split issue in order to make the point that “while there is little or no evidence of pro-split judges and lawyers articulating political reasons for a division of the circuit, this has not been true of all split opponents.” The Daily Journal story was headlined: “Environmentalists Ask Senate to Leave the 9th Circuit Alone.”

UPDATE: Glenn Sugameli, who tracks judiciary issues for Defenders of Wildlife, takes issue with Roll’s conclusions. “Judge Roll was not politically motivated,” he said in an email. “In fact, however, while not everyone supporting a split was ‘simply politically motivated’ [as Roll described it elsewhere in his article] and some who were would not admit it –  the political power behind attempts to split the 9th Circuit has always come from industry and politicians who were simply politically motivated.” More on Sugameli’s work can be seen here.

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Lawrence Hurley

Reporter based in Washington