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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.


John B. Owens

Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals
Confirmed March 31, 2014

UPDATE: A 56-43 Senate vote confirmed John B. Owens to the Ninth Circuit on March 31, 2014, after the Senate ended a filibuster on a March 27th party-line 54-44 cloture vote.

On August 3, 2013, President Obama nominated Michelle T. Friedland and John B. Owens to Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals seats.

In November 2010, Ninth Circuit Judges wrote the Senate that “we would be greatly assisted if our judicial vacancies--some of which have been open for several years and declared“judicial emergencies”--were to be filled promptly.” Owens and Friedland would fill two of the dozens of vacancies nationwide that the U.S. Courts have officially declared  “judicial emergencies.”

Owens would fill the nation’s oldest judicial vacancy, which has been empty for nearly a decade since Judge Stephen Trott semi-retired on December 31, 2004.

When Trott was nominated, he had served in the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office for 15 years (1966-81) and as the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California (1981-83). Judge Trott chose to establish his chambers in Idaho. In 2006, however, Sen. Leahy (D-VT) explained about this seat: "Judge Trott was from California, where he had practiced for much of his career prior to becoming a judge. In fact, he was nominated to fill the seat of another Californian, Judge Joseph Sneed. At the time of his nomination, … the Senators from California were consulted and it was understood to be a California seat. The practice in filling circuit vacancies has been to replace each with a nominee from the same State from which his or her predecessor was nominated. ... I do not know of any precedent for a judge's personal decision to change his or her personal residence resulted in shifting a circuit seat. …I am sensitive that every State within a circuit should have at least one judge come from that State. I supported legislation to ensure that."

Workload and population support this analysis. Ninth Circuit statistics show that 66% of appeals originate from the four California District Courts and only 1.3% from the District of Idaho. Less than half (48%) of the currently active Ninth Circuit judges are Californians (13/27).  Confirmation of Owens and Friedland would only give California 52% of active judges (15/29). Idaho represents 3.7% of the active Ninth Circuit judges – nearly three times the rate of appeals originating from Idaho. The 2010 Census shows California with 61% of the Ninth Circuit’s population, while Idaho accounts for 3%.

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