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Daines looks to split 9th Circuit, add Montana to new 12th Circuit

By Martin Kidston/Missoula Current

Saying the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is too large, Sen. Steve Daines last week introduced legislation to restructure the court into two districts, adding Montana and six other Western states into a new Twelfth Circuit.

Daines said the reconfigured Ninth Circuit would be comprised of California, Guam, Hawaii, and the Northern Mariana Islands. The new Twelfth Circuit would include Montana, Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Idaho, Nevada and Alaska.

Daines said the current Ninth Circuit is too large and denies citizens of equal access to justice.

“The Ninth Circuit is overburdened and fails to deliver justice for the American people,” Daines said. “It’s time Montanans and other western states had a court system that functions and provides Americans with the justice they need and deserve.”

Daines, R-Montana, said the Federal Courts of Appeals Modernization Act would establish a commission to study the Federal Circuit Courts of Appeals system to identify needed changes to achieve an “expeditious and effective disposition” of the Ninth Circuit caseload.

Two prior commission in 1973 and 1998 determined the Ninth Circuit had an overly-burdensome size and scope, which negatively impacted the administration of justice for 65 million Americans within its jurisdiction.

It includes 20 percent of the nation’s population and is 85 percent larger than the next largest circuit, which serves just 34.8 million people, Daines said.

Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, cosponsored the bill.

“The population of the Ninth Circuit is nearly 85 percent bigger than the next largest circuit and covers 40 percent of our country’s land mass,” Sullivan said. “It’s simply too large, its scope is too wide, and it has long passed its ability to provide equal access to justice under the law.”

According to statistics provided by Daines, the Ninth Circuit has 13,334 pending cases, or nearly three times more than the Fifth Circuit, which has 5,593 cases pending. The time from appeal to termination over the last five years at 14.7 months, the longest in the country.

Daines said the next closest was the D.C. Circuit at 11.8 months.