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The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ performance in 2000 continued a recent trend that, along with changes in Washington, D.C., may help end legislative efforts to split the circuit, an effort Chief Judge Procter Hug opposed forcefully and with great success during his five-year stint. The 9th Circuit has long been a lightning rod. Proponents of proposals to split the circuit have pointed to the circuit’s high reversal rate in the U.S. Supreme Court as evidence that the circuit is too large (and too liberal). But the statistics do not bear out the criticisms. The year 2000 marked the fewest number of 9th Circuit decisions reviewed by the Supreme Court in recent years. The Supreme Court granted certiorari in just 10 cases from the 9th Circuit in 2000 and reversed nine. While the reversal rate (90 percent) may appear high, significant progress is evident in the decreasing number of certiorari petitions the Supreme Court has granted in cases arising from the 9th Circuit during the past few years. The 9th Circuit’s figures from 2000 are not bad when one considers that the court decided nearly 4,500 cases during the course of the year. Litigants from the 9th Circuit alone filed more than 900 petitions for certiorari to the Supreme Court in 2000, and only 10 were granted (about 1 percent of the cert. petitions filed). The trend of fewer 9th Circuit cases going to the Supreme Court may be attributable to a sharp increase in the number of cases the circuit has heard en banc: 20 in 2000 and fewer than 10 three years ago. Whatever the reason, the 9th Circuit appears to have weathered the storms of recent years, emerging intact in large part due to Chief Judge Hug’s leadership and determination. For much of the 1990s, the court operated at only two-thirds of its full strength as numerous nominations were stalled (falling victim to partisan maneuvering in Washington, D.C.). At one point during the Clinton administration, there were as many as 10 vacant seats on the court. Now, as Judge Hug has handed the gavel over to Judge Mary Schroeder (as of Dec. 1, 2000), an able leader, the court is nearly at full strength — with only three of the court’s 28 active slots currently vacant — and the clamor to split the circuit has fallen silent. (Indeed, a chief proponent of the circuit split, Senator Slade Gorton of Washington state, was defeated in November.) Early in 2001, the court appears in good shape to tackle its usual Herculean case load.

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