Supreme Court Hands Ninth Circuit Three Reversals

In an unusual action, the Supreme Court summarily reversed three Ninth Circuit decisions on Monday. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is generally considered to be the most liberal appeals court in the country. Two of the decisions involved habeas corpus petitions in murder cases.

The article quotes Howard Bashman of How Appealing:

"Summary reversals are an extraordinary result in the U.S. Supreme Court, because they are usually reserved for cases in which the result below was unquestionably wrong," said Philadelphia appellate attorney Howard Bashman. "And three on one day, directed at the same federal appellate court, could be understood as sending a strong message of disapproval."

But Hastings College of the Law professor Rory Little, also an appellate lawyer, disagreed. "[The Supreme Court] knows how to write a strong rebuke," Little said. "It's not a strong rebuke."

"Significantly, two reversed the 9th Circuit in habeas corpus appeals from California state courts. In each case, the high court said the circuit decision "exceeds the limits imposed on federal habeas review." Judge Harry Pregerson, one of the 9th Circuit's most liberal jurists, was the principal author of each opinion."

For the record, we have a great deal of respect for Howard Bashman and read his blog almost daily. But we think Judge Pregerson is a fine jurist and agreed with his decisions.

Vikram Amar, a Hastings Law Professor "also said the 9th Circuit has nothing to hang its head about. "

University of Pittsburgh School of Law professor Arthur Hellman, who follows the 9th Circuit's record at the Supreme Court, acknowledged that three reversals are rare, but pointed out that the Court let another Ninth Circuit decision stand Monday--one in which the Circuit Court had ruled logging protesters could sue the Humboldt County Sheriff's Department for swabbing pepper spray in their eyes. We agree with that Ninth Circuit decision as well.

The three cases are: Early v. Packer, 02 C.D.O.S. 10897; Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Ventura, 02 C.D.O.S 10898; and Woodford v. Visciotti, 02 C.D.O.S. 10900.

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