9th Circus close to being split up?

This is an interesting development:

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Republican lawmakers have tried for decades to split the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, sometimes called the “nutty Ninth” by its detractors.

Each time, the nation’s largest and most controversial court had done something to tweak a conservative nerve, with rulings on fishing rights in Alaska, timber harvesting in the Northwest or death sentences in California. And, of course, there was the decision three years ago to find the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools unconstitutional because it contains the phrase “under God.”

But after failing over and over to break up the court, congressional Republicans now appear closer than ever to achieving their goal – in the last two weeks, House committees have approved legislation to split the court in two, and a similar proposal in the Senate was heard by a key subcommittee.

“I think the 9th Circuit is in the fight of its life,” said Arthur Hellman, a University of Pittsburgh law professor and a leading expert on the court.

As Republicans in recent weeks have managed to use their political clout to generate momentum for a 9th Circuit split, opponents and backers of the new legislation have traded shots over splintering a court that interprets law for California and eight other western states.

Supporters of a split argue the 9th Circuit has simply grown too large and unwieldy to administer justice, while opponents say the legislation is a thinly veiled attempt by Republicans to stock the federal bench with more conservative judges and diminish the influence of what has long been regarded as the country’s most liberal court.

The 9th Circuit last year decided more than 15,000 appeals, an imprint on public life that reaches the average citizen with far more regularity than the U.S. Supreme Court. With 28 members, it dwarfs the nation’s 11 other federal appeals courts and covers a much more vast territory.

It’s also the court with the most cases overturned by the USSC.

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