Laurence Tribe may be the most liberal lawyer in America. Yet, at a Senate committee hearing in December, he warned of the "international embarrassment" that could befall the country if "some rather liberal judge out in the 9th Circuit" were to involve that court in prosecuting terrorists.
Tribe's comments caught the attention of top Bush officials and Republican senators. If someone such as Tribe, a Harvard law professor who has represented both O.J. Simpson and Al Gore, is offering such ready criticism of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, it's a dire sign indeed. The "runaway court" must have fallen off the left coast and into the Pacific.
Of course, geographically, the sprawling 9th Circuit long has been in the Pacific. It's also in the Rockies, notes Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), author of legislation to break the court into more manageable entities. Stretching from the Northern Marianas to Montana and from Alaska to Arizona, the 9th Circuit covers 38 percent of this country's landmass and houses 20 percent of its population. "It's clear that the 9th Circuit is far too large to respect what our Founding Fathers had in mind when they determined the size of the federal courts," Simpson tells INSIGHT.
No one can dispute that the 9th Circuit is the largest in the country. What is contested, however, is just how much of a "rogue court" it is, if at all. Conservatives long have charged that its reversal rates by the Supreme Court are …