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Combating the Ninth Circuit Judicial Vacancy Crisis


Carl Tobias


May 4, 2017

When Donald Trump became President, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit had four judicial vacancies that the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AO) identified as “judicial emergencies.” The court also faces a larger caseload than all the other regional circuits, and has frequently decided appeals the least swiftly. The 2016 election returns indicate that more confirmations will be necessary due to additional court members’ probable retirement or assumption of senior status during President Trump’s administration. Striking politicization could frustrate this effort, however. Soon after the inauguration, President Trump signed a novel executive order proscribing U.S. immigration travel from seven predominantly Muslim nations— which the court of appeals subsequently blocked—leading President Trump to criticize the tribunal as chaotic and the motions panel opinion and the judges who decided the case as “so political.” Because the Ninth Circuit resolves the greatest number of filings, and often does so more slowly than other regional circuits even when the tribunal is at full capacity, the compelling need for the President and the Senate to fill these four open positions deserves scrutiny.