While opinions of the liberal leaning lower court have always faced scrutiny by the increasingly conservative high court – leading to a large number of reversals – the Supreme Court recently rejected five 9th Circuit rulings in a row unanimously. Some judicial experts say the justices are trying to send the San Francisco based federal appeals court a message.
“They seem to do that every now and then,” University of Pittsburgh law professor Arthur D. Hellman told The Washington Post‘s Robert Barnes of the Supreme Court’s recent rebuke of the 9th Circuit with a “combination of a cluster of decisions and language meant to send a message.”
The Supreme Court dealt rapid-fire reversals to the 9th Circuit in cases involving Truth in Lending Act credit card fee notices, employee background checks, two habeas cases involving ineffective assistance of counsel claims, and a bankruptcy ruling – the first decision written by Justice Elena Kagan.
But it was in the criminal cases where the Supremes gave the 9th Circuit a bit of a tongue lashing – at it came from one of its alums.
“Confidence in the writ [of habeas corpus] and the law it vindicates [is] undermined if there is a judicial disregard for the sound and established principles that inform its proper issuance,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy, the only former 9th Circuit judge currently on the Supreme Court, in the opinion in Harrington v. Richter. “That judicial disregard is inherent in the opinion of the Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.”
Plenty more 9th Circuit cases are pending on the high court’s docket, with rulings expected soon in cases involving everything from securities fraud claims to the ongoing battle over the fortune of the oil tycoon who married Anna Nicole Smith.