When the Supreme Court handed down its two recent final decisions, one in a major voting laws dispute and the other addressing a donor disclosure requirement, both were considered victories for conservatives — and both were reversals of the country's most controversial appellate court.
That court, the San Francisco-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, saw some of the most high-profile reversals of judgments in the tumultuous year for Supreme Court cases. The 9th Circuit went 1-15, adding to a string of losing records to the high court, according to SCOTUSblog.
Its only decision left standing was a unanimous Supreme Court affirmation that some of the NCAA's player compensation regulations violated anti-trust laws.
But, as many Democrats in Congress consistently note, the 9th Circuit did not see the highest reversal rate this year. Given the volume of cases it sends to the Supreme Court each year, it rarely does. The most-reversed circuits are often much smaller courts, usually sending one or two cases to the high court.
Still, many of the Supreme Court's reversals, including the donor disclosure and voting law cases, often have lasting consequences. Notably, this year the high court reversed the 9th Circuit's decision favoring a California law allowing labor union activists to organize on company land.
It also reversed the circuit on a series of immigration cases, a subject appeals judges have frequently been out of step with the Supreme Court.
Both conservatives and liberals agreed the 9th Circuit was playing by a different set of rules.
In one case, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote that the court's interpretation of one immigration statute was "incompatible" with what it actually said. In another, Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote its judgment "cannot be reconciled" with actual immigration rules.
But, Gorsuch wrote, "The Ninth Circuit has long applied a special rule in immigration disputes."
The circuits that saw a 100% reversal rate — the 1st, 4th, 6th, 7th, 10th, D.C., Federal, and Armed Forces circuits — did not send more than five cases to the high court. The 9th sent 16, in addition to a series of so-called shadow docket cases in which the court ruled against it.
The Supreme Court's shutdown of the 9th Circuit comes in the wake of dashed Republican hopes that former President Donald Trump would swing it in a more conservative direction. Trump appointed 10 judges to the court during his term, dramatically reducing the conservative-to-liberal ratio, an 11-seat lead on the 29-judge court, to a margin of three.
At the time, the raft of appointments led many to declare that the circuit, which governs nine states, had become conservative. But those judgments were premature, said Arthur Hellman, an emeritus law professor at the University of Pittsburgh who has written extensively on the 9th Circuit.
“It is a more centrist court,” Hellman told the Washington Examiner of the 9th Circuit's changes in recent years.
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Original Author: Nicholas Rowan