Friday, February 10, 2017

Eyes on the Ninth Circuit court

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has been in the headlines this week because of the riveting decision tasked to a three-judge panel regarding the White House’s now-blocked travel ban. But the storied court in San Francisco is certainly no stranger to America’s front page news.

Not only has the legendary Ninth Circuit got the most districts and the most judges, but it also hears by far the most cases. The docket is a monster.

Currently, the court has appellate jurisdiction over the 13 district courts in seven western states, plus Hawaii and Alaska. It also has jurisdiction over Guam and the District of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Sidney Runyan Thomas is chief judge of this huge circuit, which currently has 29 active judgeships. Of those, 68 percent were appointed by Democratic presidents – which lends to its reputation for liberalism. It was established in 1869 and is headquartered in the historic James R. Browning Building (court house and post office). The building itself is magnificent. The design is influenced heavily by Italian Renaissance style, lavish with white Sierra granite and described as palatial. In 1906, when an earthquake devastated the city, the courthouse remained standing.

Part of the court’s fame is historical, part emanates from its decisions, and part is because the Ninth Circuit itself is so enormous. As a side note, earlier this month, two U.S. senators introduced a bill that would split the Ninth Circuit to expedite the notorious slow movement of cases. Dividing the court is not a new idea. In this new bill, Sens. Jeff Flake and John McCain want to create a 12th Circuit.

OOIDA is well acquainted with the fabled Ninth Circuit court. The Association has filed lawsuits or briefs there in cases regarding drug testing, cross-border trucking, Swift Transportation, the Port of L.A.’s emissions clean-up hullabaloo and more.

In fact, on March 15 a three-judge panel of Ninth Circuit court will hear oral arguments on OOIDA’s cross-border trucking challengeThis is two years after the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration opened up long-haul trucking in the states to motor carriers based in Mexico. OOIDA will argue that the pilot program fell short in proving Mexico-domiciled motor carriers are as safe as U.S. and Canada domiciled companies.

On April 19, OOIDA’s attorneys will be back before the court with oral arguments in a case against the California Air Resources Board.

In both cases, OOIDA is represented by The Cullen Law Firm, the Association’s litigation counsel in Washington, D.C. 

The CARB case is a particularly significant one for truckers. The case was originally filed in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California, in December 2013, and ended up in the Ninth Circuit Court. So far, the merits of the case have not been heard by any court. Other lawsuits have been filed, but denied on procedural or technical grounds. The real reason truckers have a big problem with CARB’s rules has never been argued – I repeat – never been argued.

Keep your eyes on the Ninth Circuit.