Circuit Appeals for More Judges; Defends against Calls for splitting.(NATION)
Byline: Stephen Dinan, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The chief judge of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the court needs more judges, not a split, to rectify its problems.
The San Francisco-based court has been the target of nearly universal derision since a three-judge panel's decision last month that public schools cannot require students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance because it constitutes an endorsement of religion.
Yesterday, a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on whether splitting the court would help efficiency and "consistency" of the court's decisions and cut its high rate of reversals by the Supreme Court.
But Chief Judge Mary M. Schroeder, who was nominated to the court by President Jimmy Carter and became chief judge in 2000, said the way to help the court is to fill its four current vacancies and add more judgeships to the existing 28.
"We have had no new judgeships since 1984, and our caseload has doubled," she said.
But Idaho Attorney General Alan G. Lance, who presented a letter signed by 48 attorneys general asking that the court re-examine its Pledge ruling, said the problem of inconsistent decisions is the result of a cumbersome court and the methods it uses.
"The problem is not the Pledge of Allegiance - the problem is the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals," he said.
In some circuits, every opinion is circulated among all the appeals judges before being released so those judges know what the court's position is. That position becomes law for all of the territory under the court's jurisdiction. The 9th Circuit is too big for that, said Judge Diarmuid F. O'Scannlain, a nominee of President Ronald Reagan.
Also, in the other 11 appeals courts, when a three-judge panel's ruling is appealed to the full circuit - as has been requested in the Pledge case - the full circuit actually hears the case. …