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Featured Series: Redistrict the U.S. Court of Appeals (New 2nd)

December 2nd, 2015
Featured Series: Redistrict the U.S. Court of Appeals (New 2nd)

A realignment of the 1st U.S. Circuit, as proposed by CP-Idaho, would total approximately 34.5 million in population…roughly half that found in the existing 9th U.S. Circuit.

In terms of anticipated caseloads, using numbers from ballotpedia, 1421 cases were filed, and 1401 were terminated in 2014 in the 1st U.S. Circuit. In the 2nd U.S. Circuit, 5044 cases were filed, and 4853 were terminated.  Merged, the caseload would be 6461 cases filed, and 5254 cases terminated.

By comparison, in 2014 the 9th U.S. Circuit took in 12,601 cases filed, and 12,493 cases terminated. At least twice as many.  And again, bear in mind, the realignment proposal takes Puerto Rico out of the 1st U.S. Circuit and puts it more properly in the “Philadelphia circuit”—the current 3rd U.S. Circuit which would be renumbered as the new 2nd Circuit.

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Besides putting the U.S. Caribbean territories into the “Philadelphia circuit,” Maryland (currently in the 4th U.S. District) should be moved into as well.  The D.C. Circuit and the Federal Circuit, administratively, are operated in the current 4th U.S. Circuit.  The residual District of Columbia is technically in Maryland.

Further, Puerto Rico and the U.S Virgin Islands are a territory (or a commonwealth) of the United States.  Thus they more properly belong, administratively, within the U.S. Circuit in which the Federal Circuit is operated.

In the current 3rd U.S. Circuit, 4,029 cases were filed, and 3,521 were terminated in 2014.  A dependable expected caseload total resulting from this realignment is problematic.  CP-Idaho will gather these numbers in 2016.  However, the case load in the new 2nd U.S. Circuit (which would take in Maryland and Puerto Rico) would similar in extent to the caseload in the proposed merged U.S. 1st and 2nd Circuit.

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Total population of the new 2nd U.S. Circuit is essentially equivalent to the new 1st Circuit, as the population tables suggest.

In fact, the circuit population under CP-Idaho’s proposed realignment of the entire U.S Circuit Court system has a substantially lower (by about 25%) standard deviation between the proposed new Circuits than is true under the current configuration…which is irrational as  pointed out in the Caribbean Districts.

The comparatively lower population deviation brings the U.S. Circuits closer to an equivalent bench weighting for decisions coming out of each respective Circuit Court.  Again as it is now, decisions made in the “San Francisco circuit” dominate the entire U.S. Appellate Court system.

Under the proposed realignment, the California circuit becomes more at par with the new 4th Circuit (Lower South) and with the new 5th Circuit (Texas).  And the Great Lakes (new 6th Circuit) in terms of population, become the largest U.S. Circuit.  The chart shows the proposed circuit populations.

Lastly, with the Potomac River as a circuit boundary separating Maryland from the Upper South (the new 3rd Circuit), the CP-Idaho proposal to realign keeps with those Congressional arguments already made regarding geography in the late 1920s debates.  Those discussions ultimately resulted in the creation of the present  “plus-shaped” 10th U.S. Circuit.

“Geographically distinct cultures” and like-to-like economies are key elements in the right to be judged by one’s peers.  These boundaries will be discussed in detail with the next post on the proposed U.S. Circuit realignments.

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