PHOENIX – Governor Doug Ducey announced Thursday a partnership with members of Arizona’s congressional delegation to remove Arizona from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, with legislation severing ties to be introduced in both the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate.
Senior aides to Governor Ducey, Senator Jeff Flake and Congressman Matt Salmon have been meeting and studying the issue for several months. The governor in October sent a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell expressing well-documented and widespread concerns over the Ninth Circuit’s judicial performance, culture and capacity to deliver legal rulings in an efficient and reliable manner.
In his letter, Governor Ducey reiterated numerous calls from congressional members, federal justices, judges and scholars over the years for the restructuring of the Ninth Circuit – citing its unwieldy size, rapidly-growing caseload and high reversal rate as contributors to its reputation as the slowest and most inconsistent circuit court in the nation.
“The Ninth Circuit is by far the most overturned and overburdened court in the country, with a 77% reversal rate. In 2010, it had three times as many reversals as most circuits had cases before the Supreme Court,” said Governor Ducey. “Meanwhile, due to its voluminous caseload and disproportionate size, the Ninth Circuit has an abysmal turnaround time of over 15 months for an average ruling – a figure that’s only going to grow as the docket does. Arizonans deserve better than this from the people in power, and that includes a judicial process that is judicious in nature. It’s time that Congress takes overdue action to resolve this crisis in our courts – and I’m proud to join a strong coalition of Arizona leaders stepping up to facilitate the process in Washington.”
“Arizonans are waiting too long for justice, and for no other reason than the 9th Circuit is oversized and overworked, said U.S. Senator for Arizona Jeff Flake. “Establishing an additional circuit would lessen that burden across the West and ensure that the people of Arizona finally get the swift access to the courts that they are entitled to.”
“I thank Governor Ducey for his leadership in addressing this urgent and long-ignored problem,” said U.S. Representative Matt Salmon (AZ-05). “Justice delayed is justice denied and the current 9th Circuit does not properly serve the people of the nation’s fastest growing region with a court that is too large, too inconsistent, too slow, and too overworked. I look forward to working with other state and federal officials on producing a viable and responsible long-term plan to vastly improve how our government, specifically our judiciary, serves constituents throughout Arizona and the Mountain West.”
“Having been involved in similar efforts during my time in the Senate, I’m glad to see a real, revived focus on Ninth Circuit reform,” said former U.S. Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl. “It was just around a decade ago that Congress began to seriously explore and entertain legislation to split up the court into more manageable, accountable, efficient and effective parts. This is not a new problem, but it is a growing problem – and it’s not going to work itself out. I commend Governor Ducey for taking the initiative to redirect Washington’s attention to this issue. Leaders in Congress should make it a priority of this session.”
“All Arizonans should be pleased to see our leaders stepping up to revisit this issue,” said Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich. “The Ninth Circuit is overloaded and it’s bringing on new cases faster than it can resolve old ones. Reform in this area is long overdue, and I’m hopeful Congress can work together this session to take a step in that direction.”
“I stand with Governor Ducey and the Arizona leaders calling for this much-needed reform in our federal judiciary,” said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. “A court with 29 judges where only three represent Arizona, where the vast majority of rulings are overturned, where cases continue to pile up and decisions are delayed well over a year – that’s a recipe for failure. Division or restructuring of the Ninth Circuit would be a significant step in the right direction toward a judiciary that better serves Arizona.”
Read Governor Ducey’s letter to Speaker Ryan and Majority Leader McConnell here