McSally Introduces Bill to Improve Access to Justice in the West, Create New Twelfth Circuit

Legislation Implements Judicial Conference Recommendations, Splits the Ninth Circuit

U.S. SENATE – U.S. Senator Martha McSally (R-AZ) today introduced the Judicial Efficiency Improvement Act of 2019, a bill that would codify the Judicial Conference’s most recent recommendations as well as other important measures to enhance the effectiveness of the federal judiciary.

The legislation would authorize 56 permanent district court judgeships, convert eight temporary district court judgeships into permanent posts, and authorize five appellate court judgeships for the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and create a new Twelfth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

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.

“With its massive caseloads and vast geography, the current Ninth Circuit is simply too big to work well,” Senator McSally said. “Arizonans deserve a court system that delivers timely justice close to home which is why we need to split the Ninth and add capacity to our courts.”

This bill would codify the 2017 recommended judgeships by:

  • Authorizing five appellate court judgeships for the Ninth Circuit.
  • Authorizing 56 permanent district court judgeships around the country.
  • Converting eight temporary district court judgeships to permanent.

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% of the landmass of the United States and 1-in-5 Americans. The court also has more than double the average number of authorized judgeships among the circuits. Appeals take 30 percent longer to dispose of than in the next largest circuit, and one-third 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.

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 be served by 14 appellate court judges.
  • California, Hawaii, Guam, and the Mariana Islands would remain under the Ninth Circuit, served by 20 appellate court judges.

The legislation is also sponsored by U.S. Senators Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Steve Daines (R-MT), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).