United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

Last updated
United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
(9th Cir.)
Seal of the United States Courts, Ninth Judicial Circuit.svg
9th Circuit map.svg
Location James R. Browning U.S. Court of Appeals Building
Appeals from
EstablishedMarch 3, 1891
Circuit Justice Elena Kagan
Chief Judge Sidney R. Thomas

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (in case citations, 9th Cir.) is a federal court of appeals that has appellate jurisdiction over the district courts in the following districts:


It also has appellate jurisdiction over the following territorial courts:

Headquartered in San Francisco, California, the Ninth Circuit is by far the largest of the thirteen courts of appeals, with 29 active judgeships. The court's regular meeting places are Seattle at the William Kenzo Nakamura United States Courthouse, Portland at the Pioneer Courthouse, San Francisco at the James R. Browning U.S. Court of Appeals Building, and Pasadena at the Richard H. Chambers U.S. Court of Appeals.

Panels of the court occasionally travel to hear cases in other locations within the circuit. Although the judges travel around the circuit, the court arranges its hearings so that cases from the northern region of the circuit are heard in Seattle or Portland, cases from southern California and Arizona are heard in Pasadena, and cases from northern California, Nevada, Hawaii, and the Pacific territories are heard in San Francisco. Additionally, the court holds yearly sittings in Anchorage and Honolulu. For lawyers who must come and present their cases to the court in person, this administrative grouping of cases helps to reduce the time and cost of travel.


Ninth Circuit Court House in 1905 Ninth Circuit 1905.jpg
Ninth Circuit Court House in 1905
YearJurisdictionTotal populationPop. as % of nat'l pop.Number of active judgeships
1891 California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington 2,087,0003.3%2
1900 Territory of Hawaii added2,798,0003.7%3
1912 Arizona added7,415,0006.7%3
1960 Alaska and Guam added22,607,00012.6%9
1980 Northern Mariana Islands added37,170,00016.4%23

The large size of the current court is because both the population of the western states and the geographic jurisdiction of the Ninth Circuit have increased dramatically since the U.S. Congress created the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in 1891. [1] The court was originally granted appellate jurisdiction over federal district courts in California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. As new states and territories were added to the federal judicial hierarchy in the twentieth century, many of those in the West were placed in the Ninth Circuit: the newly acquired Territory of Hawaii in 1900, Arizona upon its admission to the Union in 1912, the Territory of Alaska in 1948, Guam in 1951, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in 1977.

The Ninth Circuit also had jurisdiction over certain American interests in China, in that it had jurisdiction over appeals from the United States Court for China during the existence of that court from 1906 through 1943. [2] [fn 1]

However, the Philippines were never under the Ninth Circuit's jurisdiction. Congress never created a federal district court in the Philippines from which the Ninth Circuit could hear appeals. Instead, appeals from the Supreme Court of the Philippines were taken directly to the Supreme Court of the United States. [3]

In 1979, the Ninth Circuit became the first federal judicial circuit to set up a Bankruptcy Appellate Panel as authorized by the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1978.

The Richard H. Chambers U.S. Court of Appeals, Pasadena, California Court of Appeals.jpg
The Richard H. Chambers U.S. Court of Appeals, Pasadena, California

The cultural and political jurisdiction of the Ninth Circuit is just as varied as the land within its geographical borders. In a dissenting opinion in a rights of publicity case involving the Wheel of Fortune star Vanna White, Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski sardonically noted that "[f]or better or worse, we are the Court of Appeals for the Hollywood Circuit." [4] Judges from more remote parts of the circuit note the contrast between legal issues confronted by populous states such as California and those confronted by rural states such as Alaska, Idaho, Montana, and Nevada.

Judge Andrew J. Kleinfeld, who maintains his judicial chambers in Fairbanks, Alaska, wrote in a letter in 1998: "Much federal law is not national in scope....It is easy to make a mistake construing these laws when unfamiliar with them, as we often are, or not interpreting them regularly, as we never do." [5]


Rate of overturned decisions

Some argue the court's rulings are reversed by the Supreme Court at a higher rate than other courts. For example, in 2018, President Trump claimed that the Ninth Circuit "is overturned more than any Circuit in the Country, 79%." [6]

From 1999 to 2008, of the 0.151% of Ninth Circuit Court rulings that were reviewed by the Supreme Court, 20% were affirmed, 19% were vacated, and 61% were reversed; the median reversal rate for all federal appellate courts was 68.29% for the same period. [7] From 2010 to 2015, of the cases it accepted to review, the Supreme Court reversed around 79% of the cases from the Ninth Circuit, ranking its reversal rate third among the circuits; the median reversal rate for all federal circuits for the same time period was around 70 percent. [8]

Some argue the court's high percentage of reversals is illusory, resulting from the circuit hearing more cases than the other circuits. This results in the Supreme Court reviewing a smaller proportion of its cases, letting stand the vast majority of its cases. [9] [10]

However, a detailed study in 2018 reported by Brian T. Fitzpatrick, a law professor at Vanderbilt University, looked at how often a federal circuit court was reversed for every thousand cases it terminated on the merits between 1994 and 2015. [11] The study found that the Ninth Circuit's decisions were reversed at a rate of 2.50 cases per thousand, which was by far the highest rate in the country, with the Sixth Circuit second as 1.73 cases per thousand. [12] [11] Fitzgerald also noted that the 9th Circuit was unanimously reversed more than three times as often as the least reversed circuits and over 20% more often than the next closest circuit. [11]

Size of the court

Former Chief Judges Mary M. Schroeder and Procter Ralph Hug Jr. Mary M. Schroeder.jpg
Former Chief Judges Mary M. Schroeder and Procter Ralph Hug Jr.

Many commentators have argued that the Ninth Circuit faces several adverse consequences of its large size, [13] such as "unwieldly size, procedural inefficiencies, jurisprudential unpredictability, and unusual en banc process." [14]

Chief among these is the Ninth Circuit's unique rules concerning the composition of an en banc court. In other circuits, en banc courts are composed of all active circuit judges, plus (depending on the rules of the particular court) any senior judges who took part in the original panel decision. By contrast, in the Ninth Circuit it is impractical for 29 or more judges to take part in a single oral argument and deliberate on a decision en masse. The court thus provides for a limited en banc review by the Chief Judge and a panel of 10 randomly selected judges. [15] This means that en banc reviews may not actually reflect the views of the majority of the court and indeed may not include any of the three judges involved in the decision being reviewed in the first place. The result, according to detractors, is a high risk of intracircuit conflicts of law where different groupings of judges end up delivering contradictory opinions. That is said to cause uncertainty in the district courts and within the bar. However, en banc review is a relatively rare occurrence in all circuits and Ninth Circuit rules provide for full en banc review in limited circumstances. [16]

All recently proposed splits would leave at least one circuit with 21 judges, only two fewer than the 23 that the Ninth Circuit had when the limited en banc procedure was first adopted. In other words, after a split at least one of the circuits would still be using limited en banc courts. [17]

In March 2007, Associate Justices Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas testified before a House Appropriations subcommittee that the consensus among the justices of the Supreme Court of the United States was that the Ninth Circuit was too large and unwieldy and should be split. [18]

Congressional officials, legislative commissions, and interest groups have all submitted proposals to divide the Ninth Circuit such as:

Current composition of the court

As of July 23,2020:

#TitleJudgeDuty stationBornTerm of serviceAppointed by
Active Chief Senior
74Chief Judge Sidney R. Thomas Billings, MT 19531996–present2014–present Clinton
76Circuit Judge Susan P. Graber Portland, OR 19491998–present Clinton
77Circuit Judge M. Margaret McKeown San Diego, CA 19511998–present Clinton
78Circuit Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw Pasadena, CA 19541998–present Clinton
79Circuit Judge William A. Fletcher San Francisco, CA 19451998–present Clinton
81Circuit Judge Ronald M. Gould Seattle, WA 19461999–present Clinton
82Circuit Judge Richard Paez Pasadena, CA 19472000–present Clinton
83Circuit Judge Marsha S. Berzon San Francisco, CA 19452000–present Clinton
85Circuit Judge Johnnie B. Rawlinson Las Vegas, NV 19522000–present Clinton
88Circuit Judge Consuelo Callahan Sacramento, CA 19502003–present G.W. Bush
90Circuit Judge Milan Smith El Segundo, CA 19422006–present G.W. Bush
91Circuit Judge Sandra Segal Ikuta Pasadena, CA 19542006–present G.W. Bush
93Circuit Judge Mary H. Murguia Phoenix, AZ 19602011–present Obama
94Circuit Judge Morgan Christen Anchorage, AK 19612012–present Obama
95Circuit Judge Jacqueline Nguyen Pasadena, CA 19652012–present Obama
96Circuit Judge Paul J. Watford Pasadena, CA 19672012–present Obama
97Circuit Judge Andrew D. Hurwitz Phoenix, AZ 19472012–present Obama
98Circuit Judge John B. Owens San Diego, CA 19712014–present Obama
99Circuit Judge Michelle Friedland San Jose, CA 19722014–present Obama
100Circuit Judge Mark J. Bennett Honolulu, HI 19532018–present Trump
101Circuit Judge Ryan D. Nelson Idaho Falls, ID 19732018–present Trump
102Circuit Judge Eric D. Miller Seattle, WA 19752019–present Trump
103Circuit Judge Bridget Shelton Bade Phoenix, AZ 19652019–present Trump
104Circuit Judge Daniel P. Collins Pasadena, CA 19632019–present Trump
105Circuit Judge Kenneth K. Lee San Diego, CA 19752019–present Trump
106Circuit Judge Daniel Aaron Bress San Francisco, CA 19792019–present Trump
107Circuit Judge Danielle J. Hunsaker Portland, OR 19772019–present Trump
108Circuit Judge Patrick J. Bumatay San Diego, CA 19782019–present Trump
109Circuit Judge Lawrence VanDyke Reno, NV 19722020–present Trump
38Senior Circuit Judge Alfred Goodwin Pasadena, CA 19231971–19911988–19911991–present Nixon
39Senior Circuit Judge John Clifford Wallace San Diego, CA 19281972–19961991–19961996–present Nixon
46Senior Circuit Judge Mary M. Schroeder Phoenix, AZ 19401979–20112000–20072011–present Carter
53Senior Circuit Judge Dorothy Wright Nelson Pasadena, CA 19281979–19951995–present Carter
54Senior Circuit Judge William Canby Phoenix, AZ 19311980–19961996–present Carter
65Senior Circuit Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain Portland, OR 19371986–20162016–present Reagan
66Senior Circuit Judge Edward Leavy Portland, OR 19291987–19971997–present Reagan
67Senior Circuit Judge Stephen S. Trott Boise, ID 19391988–20042005–present Reagan
68Senior Circuit Judge Ferdinand Fernandez Pasadena, CA 19371989–20022002–present G.H.W. Bush
71Senior Circuit Judge Andrew Kleinfeld Fairbanks, AK 19451991–20102010–present G.H.W. Bush
72Senior Circuit Judge Michael Daly Hawkins Phoenix, AZ 19451994–20102010–present Clinton
73Senior Circuit Judge A. Wallace Tashima Pasadena, CA 19341996–20042004–present Clinton
75Senior Circuit Judge Barry G. Silverman Phoenix, AZ 19511998–20162016–present Clinton
84Senior Circuit Judge Richard C. Tallman Coeur d'Alene, ID 19532000–20182018–present Clinton
86Senior Circuit Judge Richard Clifton Honolulu, HI 19502002–20162016–present G.W. Bush
87Senior Circuit Judge Jay Bybee Las Vegas, NV 19532003–20192019–present G.W. Bush
89Senior Circuit Judge Carlos Bea San Francisco, CA 19342003–20192019–present G.W. Bush
92Senior Circuit Judge N. Randy Smith Pocatello, ID 19492007–20182018–present G.W. Bush

List of former judges

#JudgeStateBorn–diedActive service Chief Judge Senior status Appointed byReason for
1 Lorenzo Sawyer CA 1820–18911891–1891 Grant [23] death
2 Joseph McKenna CA 1843–19261892–1897 B. Harrison resignation
3 William Ball Gilbert OR 1847–19311892–1931 B. Harrison death
4 Erskine Mayo Ross CA 1845–19281895–19251925–1928 Cleveland death
5 William W. Morrow CA 1843–19291897–1923 McKinley resignation
William Henry Hunt MT 1857–19491911–19281928–1928 [24] resignation
6 Frank H. Rudkin WA 1864–19311923–1931 Harding death
7 Wallace McCamant OR 1867–19441925 [25] –1926 Coolidge not confirmed
8 Frank Sigel Dietrich ID 1863–19301927–1930 Coolidge death
9 Curtis D. Wilbur CA 1867–19541929–19451945–1954 Hoover [26] death
10 William Henry Sawtelle AZ 1868–19341931–1934 Hoover death
11 Francis Arthur Garrecht WA 1870–19481933–1948 F. Roosevelt death
12 William Denman CA 1872–19591935–19571948–19571957–1959 F. Roosevelt death
13 Clifton Mathews AZ 1880–19621935–19531953–1962 F. Roosevelt death
14 Bert E. Haney OR 1879–19431935–1943 F. Roosevelt death
15 Albert Lee Stephens Sr. CA 1874–19651937–19611957–19591961–1965 F. Roosevelt death
16 William Healy ID 1881–19621937–19581958–1962 F. Roosevelt death
17 Homer Bone WA 1883–19701944–19561956–1970 F. Roosevelt death
18 William Edwin Orr NV 1881–19651945–19561956–1965 Truman death
19 Walter Lyndon Pope MT 1889–19691949–196119591961–1969 Truman death
20 Dal Millington Lemmon CA 1887–19581954–1958 Eisenhower death
21 Richard Harvey Chambers AZ 1906–19941954–19761959–19761976–1994 Eisenhower death
22 James Alger Fee OR 1888–19591954–1959 Eisenhower death
23 Stanley Barnes CA 1900–19901956–19701970–1990 Eisenhower death
24 Frederick George Hamley WA 1903–19751956–19711971–1975 Eisenhower death
25 Oliver Deveta Hamlin Jr. CA 1892–19731958–19631963–1973 Eisenhower death
26 Gilbert H. Jertberg CA 1897–19731958–19671967–1973 Eisenhower death
27 Charles Merton Merrill NV 1907–19961959–19741974–1996 Eisenhower death
28 Montgomery Oliver Koelsch ID 1912–19921959–19761976–1992 Eisenhower death
29 James R. Browning CA 1918–20121961–20001976–19882000–2012 Kennedy death
30 Benjamin C. Duniway CA 1907–19861961–19761976–1986 Kennedy death
31 Walter Raleigh Ely Jr. CA 1913–19841964–19791979–1984 L. Johnson death
32 James Marshall Carter CA 1904–19791967–19711971–1979 L. Johnson death
33 Shirley Hufstedler CA 1925–20161968–1979 L. Johnson resignation
34 Eugene Allen Wright WA 1913–20021969–19831983–2002 Nixon death
35 John Kilkenny OR 1901–19951969–19711971–1995 Nixon death
36 Ozell Miller Trask AZ 1909–19841969–19791979-1984 Nixon death
37 Herbert Choy HI 1916–20041971–19841984–2004 Nixon death
40 Joseph Tyree Sneed III CA 1920–20081973–19871987–2008 Nixon death
41 Anthony Kennedy CA 1936–present1975–1988 Ford elevation to Supreme Court
42 J. Blaine Anderson ID 1922–19881976–1988 Ford death
43 Procter Ralph Hug Jr. NV 1931–20191977–20021996–20002002–2017 Carter retirement
44 Thomas Tang AZ 1922–19951977–19931993–1995 Carter death
45 Betty Binns Fletcher WA 1923–20121979–19981998–2012 Carter death
47 Otto Richard Skopil Jr. OR 1919–20121979–19861986–2012 Carter death
48 Joseph Jerome Farris WA 1930 –20201979–19951995–2020 Carter death
49 Arthur Lawrence Alarcón CA 1925–20151979–19921992–2015 Carter death
50 Harry Pregerson CA 1923–20171979–20152015–2017 Carter death
51 Warren J. Ferguson CA 1920–20081979–19861986–2008 Carter death
52 Cecil F. Poole CA 1914–19971979–19961996–1997 Carter death
55 Robert Boochever AK 1917–20111980–19861986–2011 Carter death
56 William Albert Norris CA 1927–20171980–19941994–1997 Carter retirement
57 Stephen Reinhardt CA 1931–20181980–2018 Carter death
58 Robert R. Beezer WA 1928–20121984–19961996–2012 Reagan death
59 Cynthia Holcomb Hall CA 1929–20111984–19971997–2011 Reagan death
60 Charles E. Wiggins CA 1927–20001984–19961996–2000 Reagan death
61 Melvin T. Brunetti NV 1933–20091985–19991999–2009 Reagan death
62 Alex Kozinski CA 1950–present1985–20172007–2014 Reagan retirement
63 John T. Noonan Jr. CA 1926–20171985–19961996–2017 Reagan death
64 David R. Thompson CA 1930–20111985–19981998–2011 Reagan death
69 Pamela Ann Rymer CA 1941–20111989–2011 G.H.W. Bush death
70 Thomas G. Nelson ID 1936–20111990–20032003–2011 G.H.W. Bush death
80 Raymond C. Fisher CA 1939–20201999–20132013–2020 Clinton death

Chief judges

Chief Judge
Denman 1948–1957
Stephens, Sr. 1957–1959
Pope 1959–1959
Chambers 1959–1976
Browning 1976–1988
Goodwin 1988–1991
Wallace 1991–1996
Hug, Jr. 1996–2000
Schroeder 2000–2007
Kozinski 2007–2014
Thomas 2014–present

Chief judges have administrative responsibilities with respect to their circuits, and preside over any panel on which they serve unless the circuit justice (i.e., the Supreme Court justice responsible for the circuit) is also on the panel. Unlike the Supreme Court, where one justice is specifically nominated to be chief, the office of chief judge rotates among the circuit judges. To be chief, a judge must have been in active service on the court for at least one year, be under the age of 65, and have not previously served as chief judge. A vacancy is filled by the judge highest in seniority among the group of qualified judges. The chief judge serves for a term of seven years or until age 70, whichever occurs first. The age restrictions are waived if no members of the court would otherwise be qualified for the position.

When the office was created in 1948, the chief judge was the longest-serving judge who had not elected to retire on what has since 1958 been known as senior status or declined to serve as chief judge. After August 6, 1959, judges could not become or remain chief after turning 70 years old. The current rules have been in operation since October 1, 1982.

Succession of seats

The court has 29 seats for active judges, numbered in the order in which they were initially filled. Judges who assume senior status enter a kind of retirement in which they remain on the bench, while vacating their seats, thus allowing the president to appoint new judges to fill their seats.

See also


  1. The population of China is not included in the above chart for 1920 or 1940, since the Court for China lacked plenary jurisdiction over China's domestic population, then numbering about 430 million people; the court exercised only extraterritorial jurisdiction over the relatively small number of American citizens in China.

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  1. Frederick, David C. (1994). Rugged justice: the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the American West, 1891–1941. University of California Press. ISBN   9780520083813.
  2. See, e.g., Republic of China v. Merchants' Fire Ass'n of N.Y., 49 F.2d 862 (9th Cir. 1931). As the court noted, this bizarre insurance claim dispute arose directly from the "perplexing" civil war during China's warlord era, in which various groups of military officers claimed to be the representatives of the Republic's legitimate government.
  3. Kepner v. United States, 195 U.S. 100 (1904).
  4. White v. Samsung Elec. Am., Inc., 989 F.2d 1512, 1521 (9th Cir. 1993) (Kozinski, J., dissenting).
  5. Kleinfeld, Andrew J.(1998-05-22). Memo to the Commission on Structural Alternatives for the Federal Courts of Appeals.URL Retrieved June 21, 2005.
  6. Qiu, Linda (November 26, 2018). "Does the Ninth Circuit Have the Highest Reversal Rate in the Country?". New York Times . Retrieved June 12, 2019.
  7. Landslide, Volume 2, Number 3, January/February 2010 by the American Bar Association.
  8. Carroll, Lauren (February 10, 2017). "No, the 9th Circuit isn't the 'most overturned court in the country,' as Hannity says". PolitiFact .
  9. Farris, Jerome, The Ninth Circuit—Most Maligned Circuit in the Country Fact or Fiction? 58 Ohio St. L.J. 1465 (1997) (noting that, in 1996, the Supreme Court let stand 99.7 percent of the Ninth Circuit's cases).
  10. Carol J. Williams (July 18, 2011). "U.S. Supreme Court again rejects most decisions by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 4, 2012.
  11. 1 2 3 Fitzpatrick, Brian (July 31, 2018). "Written Testimony at Hearing on Oversight of the Structure of the Federal Courts" (PDF). United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary. Retrieved June 12, 2019.
  12. Qiu, Linda (November 26, 2018). "Does the Ninth Circuit Have the Highest Reversal Rate in the Country?". New York Times . Retrieved June 12, 2019.
  13. O'Scannlain, Diarmuid (October 2005). "Ten Reasons Why the Ninth Circuit Should Be Split" (PDF). Engage. 6 (2): 58–64. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 24, 2015. Retrieved May 29, 2006.
  14. Shapiro, Ilya; Harvey, Nathan (2019). "Break Up the Ninth Circuit" (PDF). George Mason Law Review. 26 (4): 1299–1329.
  15. Rule 35–3 http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/uploads/rules/frap.pdf
  16. "Statement of Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts". U.S. House of Representatives. October 21, 2003. Archived from the original on September 26, 2012. Retrieved February 6, 2012.
  17. Schroeder, Mary M.; et al. (April 2006). "A Court United: A Statement of a Number of Ninth Circuit Judges" (PDF). Engage. 7 (1): 63–66. Retrieved June 6, 2006.
  18. "America and the Courts," 48:28. C-SPAN, March 17, 2007.
  19. Gribbin, Eric J. "47 Duke L.J. 351" (PDF). law.duke.edu.
  20. Final Report, Commission on Structural Alternatives for the Federal Courts of Appeals, Dec. 18, 1998
  21. Testimony of Circuit Judge Richard Tallman: U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, United States Senate: Committee on the Judiciary, October 26, 2005; retrieved November 19, 2007.
  22. Govtrack.us S. 525—110th Congress (2007): Circuit Court of Appeals Restructuring and Modernization Act of 2007 (database of federal legislation): govtrack.us; retrieved February 18, 2008.
  23. Sawyer was appointed as a circuit judge for the Ninth Circuit in 1869 by Ulysses S. Grant. The Judiciary Act of 1891 reassigned his seat to what is now the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
  24. Hunt did not have a permanent seat on this court. Instead, he was appointed to the ill-fated United States Commerce Court in 1911 by William Howard Taft. Aside from their duties on the Commerce Court, the judges of the Commerce Court also acted as at-large appellate judges, able to be assigned by the Chief Justice of the United States to whichever circuit most needed help. Hunt was assigned to the Ninth Circuit upon his commission.
  25. Recess appointment not confirmed
  26. President Coolidge first nominated Wilbur for the judgeship in the final days of his presidency, but the Senate failed to act on it before the 70tb Congress ended on March 3, 1929. "Wilbur Nominated for Judge Post," Woodland Daily Democrat, 1929-03-01 at p. 1 (noting, as the Coolidge Administration ended, that Coolidge nominated Wilbur for the new judgeship); "Sentence Cut Out by Hoover," Oakland Tribune, 1929-03-04, Section D, p. 1 (noting that the Wilbur nomination was not acted upon before the 70th Congress ended). Hoover then resubmitted the nomination to the Senate in the 71st Congress, which approved it.
  27. Court Security Improvement Act of 2007, Pub. L. 110–177 § 509(a)(2), 121 Stat. 2534, 2543, January 7, 2008