|Judgeship Bill Snarled by Circuit Split Scheme
Oct. 6, 2004
By OCE Public Information Office
A federal judgeship bill, amended at the 11th hour to include provisions splitting the Ninth Circuit into three smaller judicial units, narrowly passed the House of Representatives Tuesday (Oct. 5) but was immediately denounced as politically-motivated and unlikely to ever come to a vote in the Senate.
In strongly worded press release, California Senator Dianne Feinstein indicated she would put a “hold” on Senate Bill 878, a procedural step that would prevent the bill from coming up for a vote in the Senate. Senator Feinstein said she was responding to a “starkly partisan and controversial ploy” by advocates of a circuit split.
“Essentially, what the House did was to poison a worthy bill, a bill that was meant to alleviate the crisis of an overwhelming workload under which the federal judiciary is struggling. The House did so by adding language to split the Ninth Circuit into three circuits. In doing so, the House has essentially taken the new judges as hostages to a starkly partisan and controversial ploy.
“I will not go along with such bullying tactics, and I am placing a hold on that bill today,” the senator said in her statement.
Senate Bill 878, sponsored by Senator Larry Craig of Nevada, provided new judgeships for courts across the country. The bill was approved unchanged by the House Judiciary Committee. Afterward, amendments were proposed by Reps. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, who chairs the committee, and Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho, who has introduced several circuit split bills. The amendments were introduced and approved by the House Rules Committee Monday (Oct. 4), then brought to the House floor Tuesday for a full vote. The measure passed by a vote of 205-194.
"Instead of moving forward to simply add judges, which is what we need, the House essentially sabotaged the bill by adding an amendment to split the circuit into three new circuits," Senator Feinstein said in her statement.
"Suffice it to say that reasonable minds can differ on whether the Ninth Circuit should be split. What reasonable minds, I think, have to agree on is this is no way to undertake such a momentous change to our nation's history," the statement said.
Under Senate Bill 878, the Ninth Circuit would have received:
• 5 new permanent judgeships and two temporary judgeships for the Court of Appeals.
• 1 new district judge for the Northern District of California.
• 3 new district judges for the Eastern District of California.
• 1 new district judge for the Central District of California.
• 2 new district judges for the Southern District of California
• 1 new district judge each for the districts of Idaho, Oregon and western Washington.
The bill would have made permanent one temporary judgeship each in the districts of Hawaii and eastern California.
It also provided for:
• 1 temporary district judgeships for Northern District of California
• 2 temporary district judgeships for the Central District of California
• 3 temporary district judgeships for the Southern District of California
Attached are the House Report on Resolution 814, which outlines the amendment, and Senate Bill 878, the original judgeship bill.
The circuit split amendment made news across the country. Click here for the Associated Press account, carried by many newspapers. In central California, the Sacramento Bee focused on how the controversial amendment hijacked an otherwise worthy bill that would fill a critical need for new judges in the Central District of California. Click here for the Bee story.