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Idaho Politicians Push for New Court

by Dan Boyd
Idaho State Journal, June 29, 2005

POCATELLO - Critics say it's large, unwieldy and inefficient. But there's another reason that Idaho politicians dislike the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

The Ninth Circuit, based in San Francisco and dubbed in certain legal circles as "the breeding ground for judicial activism," has long seemed a strange fit for predominately rural states like Idaho and Montana.

The nine-state court has had more cases overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court than any other circuit and leans - for the most part - decidedly to the left, critics maintain.

"The Ninth Circuit is vastly overloaded and cumbersome," said Mark Warbis, spokesman for Idaho Congressmen C.L. "Butch" Otter. "Really, justice delayed is justice denied."

Idaho, the most conservative state in the union as far as makeup of the Legislature, sends the court a number of sensitive local environmental imbroglios as well as high-profile criminal cases such as the Richard Leavitt murder case.

Now, one year after a House bill authored by Rep. Mike Simpson was passed over in the Senate, Idaho lawmakers Simpson, Otter, Mike Crapo and Larry Craig are helping lead the newest charge to split the Ninth Circuit and change the Gem State's judicial boundaries.

It's been tried before, but this time, they say, there just might be the widespread support to push a bill through Congress.

"With bills moving in both the House and Senate, it is obvious our colleagues from around the country have agreed the Ninth Circuit is just too large to properly serve the residents of Idaho and other states in the West," said Crapo and Craig in a joint press release.

But while the Ninth Circuit is indeed by far the largest district in terms of geography, is it really just the Circuit's size that rankles Idaho politicians?

Tellingly, during a Lincoln Day appearance this February in Pocatello, Otter compared California to Cuba for its leftist politics and received an ovation.

"California and Arizona really don't represent either the kind of cases or the judicial values we have in Idaho and in the Northwest," Warbis said, while maintaining the court's case load is Otter's primary concern.

Crapo and Craig signed onto two separate bills that were introduced last week in Washington, both with the aim of dividing the courts.

Nevada Sen. John Ensign introduced one of the bills, a proposal that would create a 12th U.S. District Court of Appeals covering Nevada, Idaho, Montana and Arizona.

The other bill, introduced by an Alaska senator, would remove California and Hawaii from the Circuit and leave the other seven states intact.

Two similar bills were also introduced in the House of Representatives last week, both authored by Simpson and one co-sponsored by Otter, Texas Rep. Tom DeLay and others.

It's not atypical for so many proposals to be introduced concurrently, said Simpson chief of staff Lindsay Slater, as arriving at an acceptable split takes time, patience and a solid foundation of support.

"The ultimate goal is coming to a solution that's amenable to both the Senate and the House," he said.

Depending on which bills, if any, emerge from committee, lawmakers should have a clearer picture of what a divided Ninth Circuit might look like.

For members of Idaho's delegation, it seems any split is a good split, as long as California's not included.

Dan Boyd
Idaho Politicians Push for New Court
Idaho State Journal, June29, 2005

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