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WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Jim Risch AND Mike Crapo (both R-Idaho) joined Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Steve Daines (R-Montana) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) in introducing the Judicial Efficiency Improvement Act of 2023, a bill that would split the massively overburdened Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and create a new Twelfth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

In addition to the split, the legislation would codify the Judicial Conference’s most recent recommendations to enhance the effectiveness of the federal judiciary by authorizing 66 new permanent district court judgeships, converting seven temporary district court judgeships into permanent posts and authorizing two new appellate court judgeships for the Ninth Circuit.

“The massive size of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals—in terms of population served, geography, and caseload—is a huge disadvantage to Idahoans,” said Risch.  “With the Judicial Efficiency Improvement Act and the Federal Court of Appeals Modernization Act, Congress would split the Ninth Circuit and modernize the court to allow for more efficient caseload processing to better serve Idahoans and Americans across the West.”

 “There is an imminent need for active District Judges and support staff to handle and maintain Idaho’s current caseload,” said Crapo.  “This legislation corrects the case bottleneck by adding much-needed permanent judgeships to better serve Idahoans and residents of the West.”

Currently, western states are subjected to an overburdened, inconsistent and slow judiciary.  This stems from having the largest circuit court in the nation in terms of geography, population and workload.  The Ninth Circuit has jurisdiction over 40 percent of the landmass of the United States and one-in-five Americans.  The court also has more than double the average number of authorized judgeships among the circuits.  One-fourth of all pending federal appeals are within the Ninth Circuit.  Creating a new circuit would solve the inefficiencies associated with the size of the Ninth Circuit and restore many Americans’ access to justice.

This bill would codify the 2023 recommended judgeships by:

  • Authorizing two new appellate court judgeships for the Ninth Circuit;
  • Authorizing 66 new permanent district court judgeships around the country; and
  • Converting seven temporary district court judgeships to permanent judgeships.

 Additionally, under the proposed legislation:

  • Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington would be moved under a new Twelfth Circuit.  The new circuit would be headquartered in Seattle, Washington, and served by 13 appellate court judges; and
  • California, Hawaii, Guam and the Mariana Islands would remain under the Ninth Circuit, served by 18 appellate court judges.

The Senators also introduced the Federal Courts of Appeals Modernization Act, legislation that would establish a commission to study the federal Circuit Courts of Appeals system to identify the changes needed to be made in order to promote an “expeditious and effective disposition” of the Ninth Circuit caseload.  Two prior commission—one in 1973 and the other in 1998—determined that the Ninth Circuit had an overly-burdensome size and scope negatively impacting the administration of justice for the 66 million Americans subject to its jurisdiction.

The Judicial Conference of the United States is the national policy-making body for the federal courts.  It is comprised of the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, the chief judge from each judicial circuit, the chief judge of the Court of International Trade, and a district judge from each regional circuit.  Every two years, the Judicial Conference makes recommendations on judgeships.