Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo has introduced legislation to split the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is the largest circuit in the nation and covers 40 percent of the country’s land mass and 20 percent of its population. It’s a move Crapo has long supported; among previous attempts at similar legislation was a 2005 bill he co-sponsored with then-Sen. Larry Craig.

The latest bill, of which Idaho Sen. Jim Risch is an original co-sponsor, would allow more efficient processing of the court’s caseload, Crapo said in a statement today; 2nd District Rep. Mike Simpson already has introduced identical legislation in the House.

“Established in 1890, the Ninth Circuit covers a massive portion of the West, which has experienced explosive growth across several states, including Idaho,” Crapo said. “This unbridled growth has created significant caseloads for the Court to consider. The sheer size of the Court creates an astonishingly lengthy journey for those seeking justice. Splitting the Ninth Circuit would allow a more expedient route to justice for individuals in the West.”

The bill, the Judicial Reorganization Act, S. 1797, would split the Ninth Circuit in two, establishing a new Twelfth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Ninth Circuit would include California, Guam and Hawaii, while the new Twelfth Circuit would consist of Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. S. 1797 would also authorize an additional five circuit court judge seats, allocating 21 to the new Ninth and 13 to the Twelfth to align with population size, according to a press release from Crapo.

The senator, who serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said his co-sponsors in addition to Risch include Sens. Martha McSally, R-Arizona; Steve Daines, R-Montana; Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; and Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska.

Splitting the 9th Circuit in two has long been a goal of conservatives because it’s viewed as the most liberal federal appeals circuit court. In his news release, Crapo, an attorney, said the circuit currently accounts for nearly a third of all pending federal appeals; and it takes an average of 13 months to decide a case, which is almost five months more than the national average.

The full text of the seven-page bill can be viewed online here.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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