United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

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United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
(9th Cir.)
Seal of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Location Headquarters:
James R. Browning U.S. Court of Appeals Building, San Francisco, California

Other Locations:
William K. Nakamura Courthouse, Seattle, Washington

Pioneer Courthouse, Portland, Oregon

Richard H. Chambers U.S. Court of Appeals-Pasadena, California
Appeals from
Established December 10, 1869
Chief judge Sidney Runyan Thomas
Active judges 29
Senior judges 16
Circuit justice Anthony Kennedy
Official website

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (in case citations, 9th Cir.) is a U.S. Federal court with 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 K. Nakamura 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 are heard in Pasadena, and cases from northern California, Nevada, Arizona, and Hawaii are heard in San Francisco. 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.

History and background

Ninth Circuit Court House in 1905
Year Jurisdiction Total population Pop. as % of nat'l pop. Number of active judgeships
1891 California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington 2,087,000 3.3% 2
1900 Territory of Hawaii added 2,798,000 3.7% 3
1920 Arizona added 7,415,000 6.7% 3
1940 11,881,000 9.0% 7
1960 Alaska and Guam added 22,607,000 12.6% 9
1980 Northern Mariana Islands added 37,170,000 16.4% 23
2000 54,575,000 19.3% 28
2007 60,400,000 19.9% 28
2009 61,403,307 19.72% 29

The large size of the current court is due to the fact that 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. The court was originally granted appellate jurisdiction over federal district courts in California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and the State of 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.[1][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.[2]

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

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."[3] 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."[4]


Political liberalism

According to the most current count, the Ninth Circuit has the highest percentage (68%) of sitting judges appointed by Democratic presidents. Republicans argue the court is biased because of its relatively high proportion of Democratic appointees.[5]

Others 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.[6][7]

However, through 2008, the Ninth Circuit Court's rulings reviewed by the Supreme Court were affirmed only 20% of the time and reversed and or vacated 80% of the time; a rate substantially higher than the median reversal rate of 68.29% for the same period.[8]

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

Size of the court

Critics of the Ninth Circuit claim there are several adverse consequences of its large size.[9] 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 of a randomly selected 11 judge panel. 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.[10]

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.[11]

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.[12]

Congressional officials, legislative commissions, and interest groups have all submitted proposals to divide the Ninth Circuit such as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Reorganization Act of 1993, H.R. 3654;[13] the Final Report of the Commission on Structural Alternatives for the Federal Courts of Appeals;[14] the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals of Reorganization Act of 2003, S. 562; the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Judgeship and Reorganization Act of 2003, H.R. 2723; the Ninth Circuit Judgeship and Reorganization Act of 2004, S. 878 (reintroduced as the Ninth Circuit Judgeship and Reorganization Act of 2005, H.R. 211, and co-sponsored by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay); the Circuit Court of Appeals Restructuring and Modernization Act of 2005, S. 1845;[15] and the Circuit Court of Appeals Restructuring and Modernization Act of 2007, S. 525.[16]

Current composition of the court

As of December 11, 2015, the judges on the court are:

# Title Judge Duty station Born Term of service Appointed by
Active Chief Senior
74 Chief Judge Sidney Runyan Thomas Billings, MT 1953 1996–present 2014–present Clinton
57 Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt Los Angeles, CA 1931 1980–present Carter
62 Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski Pasadena, CA 1950 1985–present 2007–2014 Reagan
65 Circuit Judge Diarmuid Fionntain O'Scannlain Portland, OR 1937 1986–present Reagan
75 Circuit Judge Barry G. Silverman Phoenix, AZ 1951 1998–present Clinton
76 Circuit Judge Susan P. Graber Portland, OR 1949 1998–present Clinton
77 Circuit Judge M. Margaret McKeown San Diego, CA 1951 1998–present Clinton
78 Circuit Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw Pasadena, CA 1954 1998–present Clinton
79 Circuit Judge William A. Fletcher San Francisco, CA 1945 1998–present Clinton
81 Circuit Judge Ronald M. Gould Seattle, WA 1946 1999–present Clinton
82 Circuit Judge Richard A. Paez Pasadena, CA 1947 2000–present Clinton
83 Circuit Judge Marsha S. Berzon San Francisco, CA 1945 2000–present Clinton
84 Circuit Judge Richard C. Tallman Seattle, WA 1953 2000–present Clinton
85 Circuit Judge Johnnie B. Rawlinson Las Vegas, NV 1952 2000–present Clinton
86 Circuit Judge Richard R. Clifton Honolulu, HI 1950 2002–present G.W. Bush
87 Circuit Judge Jay Bybee Las Vegas, NV 1953 2003–present G.W. Bush
88 Circuit Judge Consuelo Maria Callahan Sacramento, CA 1950 2003–present G.W. Bush
89 Circuit Judge Carlos T. Bea San Francisco, CA 1934 2003–present G.W. Bush
90 Circuit Judge Milan D. Smith, Jr. El Segundo, CA 1942 2006–present G.W. Bush
91 Circuit Judge Sandra Segal Ikuta Pasadena, CA 1954 2006–present G.W. Bush
92 Circuit Judge N. Randy Smith Pocatello, ID 1949 2007–present G.W. Bush
93 Circuit Judge Mary H. Murguia Phoenix, AZ 1960 2011–present Obama
94 Circuit Judge Morgan Christen Anchorage, AK 1961 2012–present Obama
95 Circuit Judge Jacqueline Nguyen Pasadena, CA 1965 2012–present Obama
96 Circuit Judge Paul J. Watford Pasadena, CA 1967 2012–present Obama
97 Circuit Judge Andrew D. Hurwitz Phoenix, AZ 1947 2012–present Obama
98 Circuit Judge John B. Owens San Diego, CA 1971 2014–present Obama
99 Circuit Judge Michelle T. Friedland San Francisco, CA 1972 2014–present Obama
100 Circuit Judge vacant
38 Senior Circuit Judge Alfred Theodore Goodwin Pasadena, CA 1923 1971–1991 1988–1991 1991–present Nixon
39 Senior Circuit Judge J. Clifford Wallace San Diego, CA 1928 1972–1996 1991–1996 1996–present Nixon
43 Senior Circuit Judge Procter Ralph Hug, Jr. Reno, NV 1931 1977–2002 1996–2000 2002–present Carter
46 Senior Circuit Judge Mary M. Schroeder Phoenix, AZ 1940 1979–2012 2000–2007 2012–present Carter
48 Senior Circuit Judge Joseph Jerome Farris Seattle, WA 1930 1979–1995 1995–present Carter
50 Senior Circuit Judge Harry Pregerson Woodland Hills, CA 1923 1979–2015 2015–present Carter
53 Senior Circuit Judge Dorothy Wright Nelson Pasadena, CA 1928 1979–1995 1995–present Carter
54 Senior Circuit Judge William Cameron Canby, Jr. Phoenix, AZ 1931 1980–1996 1996–present Carter
63 Senior Circuit Judge John T. Noonan, Jr. San Francisco, CA 1926 1985–1996 1996–present Reagan
66 Senior Circuit Judge Edward Leavy Portland, OR 1929 1987–1997 1997–present Reagan
67 Senior Circuit Judge Stephen S. Trott Boise, ID 1939 1988–2004 2005–present Reagan
68 Senior Circuit Judge Ferdinand Francis Fernandez Pasadena, CA 1937 1989–2002 2002–present G.H.W. Bush
71 Senior Circuit Judge Andrew Jay Kleinfeld Fairbanks, AK 1945 1991–2010 2010–present G.H.W. Bush
72 Senior Circuit Judge Michael Daly Hawkins Phoenix, AZ 1945 1994–2010 2010–present Clinton
73 Senior Circuit Judge A. Wallace Tashima Pasadena, CA 1934 1996–2004 2004–present Clinton
80 Senior Circuit Judge Raymond C. Fisher Pasadena, CA 1939 1999–2013 2013–present Clinton

Vacancies and pending nominations

Seat Seat last held by Vacancy reason Date of vacancy Nominee Date of nomination
19 Harry Pregerson Senior Status December 11, 2015
13 Barry Silverman Senior Status October 11, 2016
24 Richard R. Clifton Senior Status December 31, 2016[17]

List of former judges

# Judge State Born/Died Active service Chief Judge Senior status Appointed by Reason for
1 Lorenzo Sawyer California 1820–1891 1891–1891 Grant[18] death
2 Joseph McKenna California 1843–1926 1892–1897 B. Harrison resignation to become U.S. Attorney General
3 William Ball Gilbert Oregon 1847–1931 1892–1931 B. Harrison death
4 Erskine Mayo Ross California 1845–1928 1895–1925 1925–1928 Cleveland death
5 William W. Morrow California 1843–1929 1897–1923 McKinley resignation
William Henry Hunt Montana 1857–1949 1911–1928 1928–1928 [19] resignation
6 Frank H. Rudkin Washington 1864–1931 1923–1931 Harding death
7 Wallace McCamant Oregon 1867–1944 1925[20]–1926 Coolidge recess appointment not confirmed by the United States Senate
8 Frank Sigel Dietrich Idaho 1863–1930 1927–1930 Coolidge death
9 Curtis D. Wilbur California 1867–1954 1929–1945 1945–1954 Hoover[21] death
10 William Henry Sawtelle Arizona 1868–1934 1931–1934 Hoover death
11 Francis Arthur Garrecht Washington 1870–1948 1933–1948 F. Roosevelt death
12 William Denman California 1872–1959 1935–1957 1948–1957 1957–1959 F. Roosevelt death
13 Clifton Mathews Arizona 1880–1962 1935–1953 1953–1962 F. Roosevelt death
14 Bert Emory Haney Oregon 1879–1943 1935–1943 F. Roosevelt death
15 Albert Lee Stephens, Sr. California 1874–1965 1937–1961 1957–1959 1961–1965 F. Roosevelt death
16 William Healy Idaho 1881–1962 1937–1958 1958–1962 F. Roosevelt death
17 Homer Bone Washington 1883–1970 1944–1956 1956–1970 F. Roosevelt death
18 William Edwin Orr Nevada 1881–1965 1945–1956 1956–1965 Truman death
19 Walter Lyndon Pope Montana 1889–1969 1949–1961 1959–1959 1961–1969 Truman death
20 Dal Millington Lemmon California 1887–1958 1954–1958 Eisenhower death
21 Richard Harvey Chambers Arizona 1906–1994 1954–1976 1959–1976 1976–1994 Eisenhower death
22 James Alger Fee Oregon 1888–1959 1954–1959 Eisenhower death
23 Stanley Nelson Barnes California 1900–1990 1956–1970 1970–1990 Eisenhower death
24 Frederick George Hamley Washington 1903–1975 1956–1971 1971–1975 Eisenhower death
25 Oliver Deveta Hamlin, Jr. California 1892–1973 1958–1963 1963–1973 Eisenhower death
26 Gilbert H. Jertberg California 1897–1973 1958–1967 1967–1973 Eisenhower death
27 Charles Merton Merrill Nevada 1907–1996 1959–1974 1974–1996 Eisenhower death
28 Montgomery Oliver Koelsch Idaho 1912–1992 1959–1976 1976–1992 Eisenhower death
29 James R. Browning California 1918–2012 1961–2000 1976–1988 2000–2012 Kennedy death
30 Benjamin Cushing Duniway California 1907–1986 1961–1976 1976–1986 Kennedy death
31 Walter Raleigh Ely, Jr. California 1913–1984 1964–1979 1979–1984 L. Johnson death
32 James Marshall Carter California 1904–1979 1967–1971 1971–1979 L. Johnson death
33 Shirley Hufstedler California 1925–present 1968–1979 L. Johnson resignation to become U.S. Secretary of Education
34 Eugene Allen Wright Washington 1913–2002 1969–1983 1983–2002 Nixon death
35 John Francis Kilkenny Oregon 1901–1995 1969–1971 1971–1995 Nixon death
36 Ozell Miller Trask Arizona 1909–1984 1971–1984 Nixon death
37 Herbert Choy Hawaii 1916–2004 1971–1984 1984–2004 Nixon death
40 Joseph Tyree Sneed III California 1920–2008 1973–1987 1987–2008 Nixon death
41 Anthony Kennedy California 1936–present 1975–1988 Ford elevation to U.S. Supreme Court
42 J. Blaine Anderson Idaho 1922–1988 1976–1988 Ford death
44 Thomas Tang Arizona 1922–1995 1977–1993 1993–1995 Carter death
45 Betty Binns Fletcher Washington 1923–2012 1979–1998 1998–2012 Carter death
47 Otto Richard Skopil, Jr. Oregon 1919–2012 1979–1986 1986–2012 Carter death
49 Arthur Lawrence Alarcon California 1925–2015 1979–1992 1992–2015 Carter death
51 Warren John Ferguson California 1920–2008 1979–1986 1986–2008 Carter death
52 Cecil F. Poole California 1914–1997 1979–1996 1996–1997 Carter death
55 Robert Boochever California 1917–2011 1980–1986 1986–2011 Carter death
56 William Albert Norris California 1927–present 1980–1994 1994–1997 Carter retirement
58 Robert R. Beezer Washington 1928–2012 1984-1996 1996–2012 Reagan death
59 Cynthia Holcomb Hall California 1929–2011 1984–1997 1997–2011 Reagan death
60 Charles Edward Wiggins California 1927–2000 1984–1996 1996–2000 Reagan death
61 Melvin T. Brunetti Nevada 1933–2009 1985–1999 1999–2009 Reagan death
64 David R. Thompson California 1930–2011 1985–1998 1998–2011 Reagan death
69 Pamela Ann Rymer California 1941–2011 1989–2011 G.H.W. Bush death
70 Thomas G. Nelson Idaho 1936–2011 1990–2003 2003–2011 G.H.W. Bush death

Chief judges

Chief Judge
Denman 1948–1957
Stephens 1957–1959
Pope 1959–1959
Chambers 1959–1976
Browning 1976–1988
Goodwin 1988–1991
Wallace 1991–1996
Hug 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 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 filled. Judges who retire into senior status remain on the bench but leave their seat vacant. That seat is filled by the next circuit judge appointed by the president.

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.


  1. 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.
  2. Kepner v. United States, 195 U.S. 100 (1904).
  3. White v. Samsung Elec. Am., Inc., 989 F.2d 1512, 1521 (9th Cir. 1993) (Kozinski, J., dissenting).
  4. Kleinfeld, Andrew J. (1998-05-22). Memo to the Commission on Structural Alternatives for the Federal Courts of Appeals. URL Retrieved June 21, 2005.
  5. Bagley, Constance E.; Savage, Diane (2009). Managers and the Legal Environment: Strategies for the 21st Century. Cengage Learning. p. 64. ISBN 9780324582048. Retrieved August 4, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Jerome Farris, 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).
  7. 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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Landslide, Volume 2, Number 3, January/February 2010 by the American Bar Association.
  9. 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 May 10, 2006. Retrieved May 29, 2006.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[dead link]
  10. "Statement of Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts". U.S. House of Representatives. October 21, 2003. Retrieved February 6, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. 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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "America and the Courts," 48:28. C-SPAN, March 17, 2007.
  13. Eric J. Gribbin, 47 Duke L.J. 351, law.duke.edu
  14. Final Report, Commission on Structural Alternatives for the Federal Courts of Appeals, Dec. 18, 1998
  15. Testimony of Circuit Judge Richard Tallman: U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, 26 October 2005. United States Senate: Committee on the Judiciary. Retrieved November 19, 2007.
  16. Govtrack.us S. 525--110th Congress (2007): Circuit Court of Appeals Restructuring and Modernization Act of 2007, GovTrack.us (database of federal legislation): govtrack.us (Retrieved February 18, 2008)
  17. "Ninth Circuit Judge Richard R. Clifton Announces Intention to Take Senior Status" (PDF). Public Information Office. Retrieved January 4, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. Recess appointment.
  21. 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.
  22. Court Security Improvement Act of 2007, Pub. L. 110-177 § 509(a)(2), 121 Stat. 2534, 2543, January 7, 2008

External links