According to its web site, the mission of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is “to provide an impartial forum for the just and prompt resolution of cases through the uniform and coherent application of the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America.”
The federal court system is separated into twelve districts identified as “circuits.” The Ninth Circuit originally covered California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. Congress subsequently expanded its jurisdiction to include Hawaii, Arizona, Alaska, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. With approximately 60,400,000 people in these districts, this circuit is geographically immense in size and population. Comprised of approximately 20% of the national population, the circuit also staffs the largest number of active judges supplemented by an additional number of retired judges. These factors have created judicial disagreement within the Ninth Circuit and as compared to other circuits. Inconsistent decisions among the judges are attributable to variation in the types of people and density of population ranging from rural areas of some states to culturally variegated and densely populated urban areas.
As a court of appeal, the function of the Ninth Circuit court is not litigation in trial courts but to review those decisions and perhaps change the outcome . Few cases commence in the Ninth Circuit with the exception of immigration cases (which account for over 35% of the Ninth Circuit caseload). The Ninth Circuit also maintains jurisdiction over state courts in certain cases and frequently reverses those courts in controversial decisions.
A number of criticisms have been leveled at the Ninth Circuit, primarily stemming from allegations the court is “politically liberal” and out of step with Supreme Court precedent. In addition, the mere size of the Ninth Circuit impairs maintaining a coherent body of case law.
This web site emphasizes decisions written by the Ninth Circuit on immigration; criminal law and procedure; the death penalty; habeas corpus; prisoner’s rights; First Amendment issues; Fourth Amendment law on search and seizure; Fifth Amendment & Miranda decisions; prisoner’s rights; and immunity for public officials. The Blog discusses cases in more detail; Recent Cases consists of brief summaries by topic but focusing on immigration and habeas corpus. The site also reviews “cultural” decisions involving, race, gender, age, disability, and schools.
The site reviews a series of controversial Ninth Circuit decisions commencing in 2002 through 2008 rather than isolating one year, thereby enabling the reader to discern a pattern. During the 2006-2007 term of the Supreme Court, the Justices reversed the Ninth Circuit in twenty one out of twenty two cases. In the 2007-2008 term the Supreme Court reversed the Ninth Circuit in eight out of ten cases. No other Circuit Court has experienced this reversal record. In some instances, the Supreme Court dispensed with briefing and unanimously reversed the Ninth Circuit. In other cases the Justices were severely critical, reproaching the Ninth Circuit for disregarding Supreme Court decisions.
In the term beginning in October, 2008 the Supreme Court has already granted a series of Ninth Circuit cases, all likely to be reversed.
Because the Ninth Circuit has frequently criticized immigration judges, we include a series of their decisions. The volume of immigration decisions is enormous and the Ninth Circuit develops its own precedent rarely reviewed by the Supreme Court. Readers will note the antipathy of the Ninth Circuit toward immigration judges.