"Relating to the division of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals."
"The benefit accruing to Alaska of a smaller, closer Twelfth Circuit Court is self evident and undoubtedly long overdue."
- Sen. Seekins
On February 28, 2003 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld its controversial June 2002 decision declaring a portion of the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional. This ruling exemplifies the relational disconnect the Ninth Circuit Court has with many Western States including Alaska.
On February 28, 2003 Senate Joint Resolution 8 - calling upon Congress to divide the Ninth Circuit Court - was read across the floor of the Alaska State Senate. This action is necessitated for a variety of reasons not the least of which includes the vast geographical and philosophical distance separating Alaska from the San Francisco based Court.
The Ninth Circuit Court oversees a population - and a concomitant caseload - far beyond that which is reasonably manageable. In total, there are eleven Circuit Courts of Appeal throughout the country, yet the Ninth Circuit Court oversees nearly 20% of the U.S. population. In other words, the Ninth Circuit is twice the ideal size. This size disparity is cited as the principal reason for the Ninth Circuit Court's relatively high reversal record in cases heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.
SJR 8 endorses legislation introduced in the 106th and 107th Congress by Senators Ted Stevens and Frank Murkowski that would split the Ninth Circuit Court in two. The reconfigured Ninth would encompass Arizona, California and Nevada. The new Twelfth Circuit Court would take in Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington (as well as the Northern Marianas and Guam). Similar legislation was also recently introduced in the 108th Congress by Senator Lisa Murkowski.
SJR 8 simply seeks to accomplish two objectives: (1) correct a considerable imbalance in the Ninth Circuit Courts' caseload, and; (2) provide the disparate regions falling within the Ninth Circuit Court's current purview with a better informed panel of Judges. These objectives are best accomplished by splitting the Ninth Circuit Court. The benefit accruing to Alaska of a smaller, closer Twelfth Circuit Court is self evident and undoubtedly long overdue.